Almanac Footy Books (and Lunches): An extract from Matt Zurbo’s ‘Heart & Soul’ – Ken Hunter

 

 

 

 

A new edition of Matt Zurbo’s book of player interviews has just been release. Called Heart & Soul, it is published by Geoff Slattery. We don’t always use the front and back covers when introducing a book, but we wanted to do justice to Jim Pavlidis’s art work. The table of contents can be found at the end of this post.

The book will be launched at the Footy Almanac/Odd Friday Lunch at the North Fitzroy Arms on July 19. rsvp@footyalmanac.com.au

Here’s an extract featuring Ken Hunter who played 147 games for Carlton 1981-89:

 

My father was a shearing contractor. I was born in Derby, which is up in the north west of WA. Him and my mother split up when I was two. My mum married a Naval person, and we moved to Cloverdale, a relatively new estate near the airport in Perth, a pretty sort of tough area. Working class, at the lower end of the income stream. Hard jobs, honest day’s work. And I went to school there.

I started playing footy when I was about eight. My stepfather at the time wasn’t overly keen on me going to training. I basically had to do it behind his back. The closest team was Carlisle, which was four to five mile away. I’d sneak on to the bus, and try and get back before he returned from work. He wasn’t overly mean, he simply thought I was too young. But I just wanted to play football. I never got caught. It was one of those lessons, an eight-year-old going out into the big wild world, trying to live his dream.

Mum split up with the Naval person and started going out with Alan Robertson, a famous bloke who found a lot of shipwrecks on the WA coast, and we moved to Dalkeith, which was very flash. I was 13. I went to Hollywood High School. Coming from Dalkeith, I was wearing a pink shirt and cream flares, the latest fashion in Cloverdale. But at Hollywood High they were all surfies—the white T-shirts, Bermuda shorts. They were thinking, who the fuck is this idiot? The only thing that saved me was being made to get up in front of the class and tell them about myself. When I mentioned I played footy, they all wanted me at their club. So I chose to play at Dalkeith. That was the first time I realised what football can do for you. And it probably saved me from getting bashed. (laughs)

My surfie mates, the parties, the music, it was a great way of growing up. A number of them surfed and played footy. We played in that zone, then in combined teams together. The State School Team to go to Tasmania, they picked 25, and I was 26, first emergency. Shattered! Funny thing was, apart from one bloke who played about 12 games, I was the only one who made it.

I didn’t really like school, so left when I was about 15, 16. Mum and Alan Robertson moved to Roebourne, about two thirds up the West Australian coast, where I started working on a prawn boat and played football for the Dampier Tigers. Roebourne was a tough, heavily Indigenous place at the time. I was living on the boats, going out for a night, or a week at a time, and playing football when I could for the Tigers. Just about everybody on the prawning boats was running away from something: criminal situations, child payments… You came across all sorts, from all walks of life, out there. The grounds were rock hard. It was just tough football.

When I went to Claremont I was about 17. Mal Brown was my first coach. I was in the fourths, a long, long way from the senior team. But Mal was eying me off, and another player called Brad Reynolds. He gave me about five games towards the end of the year. I was terrified of Mal. A lot of boys were. He was very intimidating. But he was a good bloke. He gave me my start in football, I’m always grateful for that.

Playing seniors for Claremont I started to get an idea of the VFL, but I also got my jaw broken three times. First occasion I came in at half-time and said, “Something’s not right. I can’t close my jaw.” They said, “Don’t worry about it, we’ll have a look after the game.” So I played through. In those days they wired your teeth together for four weeks. I had to vitamise all my food and eat through a straw, blended pies and stuff. Then you miss another four while it heals.

After that I came back for four or five games, the ball’s in dispute, and Stan Magro was coming the other way. I went to pick up the ball, and I saw his elbow coming—right into my jaw. I knew it was broken again. As I’m coming off one of the crowd is calling, “How’s your jaw feel now, Hunto?” I wanted to jump the fence! So I did another four weeks of sucking food through a straw. Out of the game for another eight weeks.

Mal Brown wanted to get me to go to Richmond. North were also showing interest. I really wanted to go to the Kangaroos because of all the West Australian players they had there: (Ross) Glendinning, (Barry) Cable, Graeme Melrose, a whole host of them. Ron Joseph was chasing me at the time. He actually wrote out a contract on a serviette.

I got picked to play for Western Australia against Victoria several times. I’ve come off the bench, Mark Maclure’s come out with the ball, I’ve thrown myself across it. He’s missed the ball, missed my hands, and kicked me right on the chin. Knocked me out. They’ve put me on a stretcher, taken me to hospital, and I’ve got another broken jaw. My third in 12 months!

All the papers were saying, This young bloke should retire. He’s a danger not only to himself, but others. I thought, “Hey, I’m just starting.” I didn’t want to give it away. But North stopped calling. I rang them once or twice, got no reply. I knew they’d read the papers; they probably thought I’d be a liability. Being concussed a lot, you get this strange sensation; you’re not focused, nothing quite makes sense, yet you’re still playing on instinct.

I played in the first ever State of Origin. (Graham) ‘Polly’ Farmer was our coach. It was six weeks after the season, so we all had to go to training regularly. There was a big squad: blokes like Garry Sidebottom, Ross Glendinning, Stephen Michael, Barry Cable, Basil Campbell. Every run I thought I’d be cut. It got to the last week and I was in the team. It was the first time in many, many years Western Australia had beaten Victoria. We won by 10 goals. It was a really proud moment for all of us.

After Mal Brown, Claremont got in Graham Moss, the Brownlow medallist. He won three best and fairests while I was there. I came second. I thought one time I could have pipped him. (chuckles) He was captain/coach—the selection committee probably noticed him more. But Mossy was great, he brought in Wayne Blackwell, Warren Ralph, the Krakouer brothers.

I’d never seen anything like the Krakouer brothers in my life. Jimmy, when he came on, he was such a dynamic player! He was just so quick with his mind. He could take a mark and kick a freakish goal. In those days there was a lot of racial vilification, very nasty, and he used to cop it more than anyone else. He’d stand up to anyone who had a go at him, physically or verbally. Even if they were six foot six he’d go right back! You had to admire him. Then we found out he had a brother called Phil. (laughs) When they played at Claremont as a duo, they brought a lot of people back to the football.

Jimmy and Phil were two completely different people. Being Aboriginal in the WAFL back then was tough. Jimmy never backed down when he was vilified or hit. Which was great, but it was a constant distraction, especially for Graham Moss. Everybody would be dragged in to help him. It was sad; it was unfair. He simply wasn’t being protected by those in charge of the game. The umpires weren’t protecting the Krakouer brothers. The game wasn’t protecting Indigenous players. Yet through the stance taken by players like them, we’ve come a long way.

I had Hawthorn interested, Collingwood were calling, a few other clubs. Carlton said, “We’ll fly you over, no obligation, to watch a game.” I thought, “A free ticket, why not?” Bruce Doull was injured; I’m sitting in the grandstand with him watching the match. Bruce up and leaves at three-quarter time. Doesn’t even stay to watch the end. (smiles) But that’s Bruce Doull. Bruce didn’t talk much, but I ended up No.9, he was No.11, so in the lockers… and we were both in the backline. He still didn’t speak much, but you could tell by his eyes what he was thinking.

You ask any Carlton player from my era who was the best player they played with, they’ll all say Bruce Doull. He was cat-like in the way he never went to ground. He could really close down the gap between a player and get a fist to it, would frustrate the opposition. He was the sort of guy, on a Sunday, Catholics versus Protestants, hockey, soccer, we’re all hungover—he’d be best on ground. (laughs) Not that he could play any of them, but he just tried that hard.

(President) George Harris and the secretary got me down in the boardroom. They made out they were going to do me this massive favour by letting me play for Carlton. In those days you didn’t have a player manager or anything. I was so impressed by their sweet talk, I ended up signing on for only $5000, when I could have got $20,000, whatever. Flying back to WA, I was thinking, “You’ve got all these other clubs after you! You just signed your life away—you idiot!” (laughs)

We were training out at Heidelberg. ‘Parko’ (coach David Parkin) had us going hard, we were doing lots of one on one. I would be up against blokes like (Wayne) Harmes or (Vin) Catoggio. One time, after giving it everything for two hours, I went to leave. I’m at my car and a voice says, “Hey, where ya going?” “Home.” It was Mark Maclure. “No you’re not. You’re coming to the pub.” So I went. All the boys were in there, having a drink. This went on for every training session. Parko didn’t drink. He’d drive past the pub to keep an eye on us and we’d all charge our glasses, raise them to him through the window. “There goes the cockroach!” (laughs)

I’d played in some reasonable sized crowds, 10 to 15,000 people, then I come to Carlton, and we’re in front of 20,000 for a practice match in Bendigo. We were playing Richmond. I lined up on David Cloke and he smashed me across the nose. I thought, “OK, welcome to VFL footy.” Then they swapped him with Jimmy Jess and he smashed me across the chest. I come off, blood pouring out of my nose, chest hurting, I could hardly breathe. Then this stunning bikie girl come up and says, “Can I have your autograph?” I say, “Yeah, OK.” She pulls out her breasts. I’m, “Oh...” So I signed one of them and thought, “Maybe I could get used to VFL football.”

During the pre-season Trevor Keogh said to me, “Hey, mate, what position do you play?” I said, “Half-back line.” He said, “Well, good luck. Our entire half-back line is All-Australian.” (chuckles) He didn’t know I’d already been All-Australian twice. It didn’t count to them unless you were VFL football. He was right, though. There was (Geoff) Southby, Doull, (Val) Perovic, (Des) English and Harmes.

Parkin was starting to get frustrated. We were being thrashed in every practice match. Our last practice game was against Hawthorn at Glenferrie. They beat us by 15 goals. I was thinking to myself, “Jeez, they’re a great bunch of blokes, but I think I’ve come to the wrong club.” But they had this attitude, they kept telling me, “Don’t worry, we didn’t care about practice matches.” Sure enough, our first game, against last year’s premiers, Richmond, we won by 64 points. When it come to the real stuff, they switched on.

I played the whole year, didn’t miss a game. I managed to play good consistent footy and start to get the respect of the players, but you just knew at Carlton you were expected to make finals, and during those games was how they’d rate you.

I really knew I was in a Grand Final before the game. You’re in the concrete bowels of the MCG, hearing the odd cheer of the crowd for the Reserves game… Then you run up the race and you hear this almighty roar—110,000 people shouting! You get out there, there’s noise, faces everywhere. Then the ball’s bounced and you shut it all out. It’s a game of football.

I was on (Peter) Daicos. I used to get him a fair bit. He was a match-winner. In short spurts he could turn a game. Your concentration levels had to be really, really focused. But we’d worked him out. He was no good going the other way. Wouldn’t chase. So David Parkin had them go through me on kick-outs. We exploited him all the time. Daicos got one goal—you wouldn’t think he would get near it, he just made something out of absolutely nothing. But it was his only one.  I like to think I beat him on the day.

The ’81 Grand Final was a nail-biter. We were down by about 20 points about 20 minutes into the third quarter. We kicked a couple of late goals, and then the last quarter we just dominated. We kicked four goals in 10 minutes, and, importantly, had the ball in our half for most of the quarter. From there it was probably just a matter of time, just keep playing, waiting, wanting that final siren. Then, when the siren goes, you’re flooded by just probably the best feeling in your life! At that level, it’s the ultimate. ’81 was the last year players swapped jumpers. Already not everybody was doing it, but I traded mine with Daicos.

Carlton were such a powerful supporter base. A lot of the Jewish community and Italian businessmen, multicultural—very wealthy—and the Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was a Carlton supporter. It added to the whole mystique of Carlton being called the Silvertails. We flew up to the Lodge, as a guest of Malcolm and Tammie Fraser, about a week after we won the flag. We couldn’t believe, there we are on a private plane, going up to the Lodge with the Prime Minister of the country. (laughs) We did it again the following year, which was a completely different story; it was like going home and having a few beers. Come give us a kiss Tammie… Got a joke for you, Mal, come over here. Blokes are smoking, stole all the cutlery with the insignia of the government on there. We all got a letter, “Can you please return the silverware from the Lodge.” Everyone just tore up the letters and threw them in the bin (laughs). To this day, blokes have still got ashtrays and cutlery. (laughs)

I became aware of Carlton’s prestige pretty quick, it was all around you. After a game the room would be full of celebrities or wealthy business people. The Carltonians is a group that were very, and are still, very strong. They had a lot to do with the recruiting. If you won, they’d give you 50 bucks, which was a lot of money in those days. It paid for your drinks all night. It was all added incentive, I suppose. If you won, you were going to have this money to see you through the night. None of them confronted you directly to your face, but you got a pretty clear impression it wasn’t acceptable to lose at Carlton. When we lost there was this deadly silence in the room.

(Mark) Maclure was probably the central figure. If there was an unofficial captain, it would’ve been him. Everything seemed to revolve around Mark. He had a sharp wit; he was well respected. He could be cutting. He’d put people back in their box if he felt they were going outside of it. Everyone knew where they stood with Mark. On the footy field, he was such a trier at centre half-forward. He’s been underrated. He played in four premierships in the hardest position on the field.

’82 was different to ’81. At one stage it looked like we couldn’t make the finals. I think we just dug deep. We summoned our reserve, were able to win some games and get in. We played Richmond in the Second Semi. They surprised us with Jimmy Jess at half-forward, David Cloke full-forward, and (Michael) Roach up forward as well, and they beat us by four comfy goals. It felt like 10. Flogged us. Yet Parkin said, “If we can get through Hawthorn, we’ll beat ’em.” I’m sure there were blokes who played that day who didn’t think that we could beat Richmond.

Parkin coached brilliantly that year. Coming off the back of a premiership and winning it, there were guys that weren’t as hungry, and we had injuries and we had suspensions. He got us through that period. Then, when we got flogged in the Second Semi he got that belief back into us that we could actually win it. But first we had to get over Hawthorn.

It was a tight game, but we got over Hawthorn. Then, going into the Grand Final, Parkin thought that because they’d beaten us so convincingly two weeks earlier, they’d go in the same way—and they did. He planned for that, had it all worked out. (Mario) Bortolotto on Cloke—we made a few surprise moves ourselves.

Early in the game, Jimmy Jess got me. The ball sort of bounced high and at an awkward angle, and I went to reach for it, he come through and past the ball and just cleaned me right up. Knocked out, carried off. I remember coming back on the ground at some stage not knowing where I was, looking around, thinking, “I’m sure I’m playing a Grand Final but… I think I am.” And seeing a streaker and thinking, “Ah no, I’m on a footy trip.” (laughs). I had no idea where I was.

Funny enough, my opponent was Maurice Rioli. When I was off, he kicked two really good goals. Then I came back on and had a good battle after that. And he ended up winning the Norm Smith. I was spewing! We won the game; I thought maybe it was one of our boys who’d probably win it. Johnno (Wayne Johnston) set the scene at the start of the game, and Wayne Harmes. But Maurice Rioli is a great player.

The Norm Smith is such a great award. It’s being best on ground when every player out there in the two best teams is trying their very best. It’s like with (David) Rhys-Jones. In ’86 Gary Ayres won the Norm Smith Medal on him, then to come out the following year and play on Brereton in the Grand Final and win it himself. I mean, for Rhys, it’d be the ultimate. He’d be able to rest on it for the rest of his life.

During the season Parkin was a bit sneaky. He’d ring you up on a Friday night to tell you who you’re playing on, and talk about the game, blah, blah, blah. So you could never go out. You always knew that the phone call was coming.

People talk about courage. Most of the time it was simply that I wanted the ball, and I wanted it really bad. There was one game I was playing in WA, I went back with the flight of the ball and I thought someone was coming and dropped the mark. When I looked around and there was no one there, I thought, That’s never fucking happening to me in a game of football again! So I started looking for that situation and putting myself in it, where I’d go into the unknown just to get the ball. I’d deliberately put myself in that position to make sure it never happened again. Then it became like a habit, I suppose. I just found myself quite used to that situation and be seeking it, and it became part of my game. I’d enjoy that side of it, just to go into places that you knew that you were opening yourself up to danger, testing yourself on the footy field. The only place I could do that in life—see how you go under that sort of pressure—was on the footy field.

You could sense a lack of courage in some players. Sometimes you could tell you had a bloke beat as soon as you lined up on him, just by the look in his eye. You could always tell if a bloke pulled out of a contest, that half-hearted effort. They’re trying to make out that they’re fully committed, but they’re not. (laughs) But they’re not kidding anyone.

If you saw a bloke not go hard at it, you know, it was pretty obvious, you’d let him know that not only would we see it, but the whole crowd saw it, and viewers on TV, they saw it as well. “Good luck, mate.” With teammates you’d be a bit more diplomatic, “Oh, maybe could’ve gone harder there.” Mark Maclure, opposition, teammate, he’d just speak his mind. I could see him doing it now.

Everyone admires a person that is prepared to put everything on the line for the team, that’s prepared to do that week in and week out. That’s probably the greatest admiration that you can get on a footy field. I mean, yeah, you can take the big marks, and you can kick the snappy goals but it’s how big your ticker is when it comes to the crunch. I think that’s why it sets different people apart. That’s the ultimate.

’83 I won Mark of the Year on Channel Seven, by running back with the fight of the ball and got a car. ‘Buzz’ (Peter Bosustow) won Mark of the Year on Channel Two and won a bike. (laughs) He wasn’t too happy. He was ringing up Channel Seven saying, “Oh, mine was a better mark than Hunter’s!” These two West Australian boys come over, in their first year one wins best and fairest, and the other one wins Mark of the Year and Goal of the Year. One was back, and one was a forward. One was an introvert, one was an extrovert. (laughs) But it was just typical of Buzz that he wasn’t happy. You can come wash my car anyway, Buzz. (laughs)

That year, ’83, playing at Victoria Park, I got knocked out by Graham Teasdale. At half-time they tried to see if I was OK and decided to put me up forward. And I ended up kicking three goals and we won the game. From that point on, they thought, “Hello, we might have a forward here.” I wish it hadn’t happened, because I started playing up forward. Even though I topped the Carlton goalkicking that year (43), and got to experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows that came with playing footy up forward, my best position was in the backline. Going up forward, at times you just become a little bit lazy.

I was vice-captain to Wayne Johnston, Mark Maclure and Stephen Kernahan, three very different blokes. I was vice-captain at Claremont as well. I would’ve loved to have captained a side in my own right, to have that responsibility of being the leader of the team. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it went. They were great captains, too, by the way. I enjoyed playing under each of them for different reasons. But at some period in my football career I would’ve liked… that’s probably my one regret, that I would’ve liked to captain a side.

Robert Walls replaced Parkin in ’86. They were both innovative in their own ways. Parkin showed his academic background; he was the first to have reports on the game given to you the next day. He’d rate you on statistics, and have a breakdown… He was a school teacher. Loved it. But he also had a really genuine interest in you as a person. Where I think Walls was, he was probably the innovator in a lot of the things that were brought into the game, like kick in down the middle, tap to the back of the pack to the rover. He was a very thoughtful person but he wasn’t as engaging a guy as what Parkin was. He saw you as a footballer and that was it, he didn’t really get to know you as a person. Very old school. Come out of Barassi’s coaching era. Surly bloke. He might’ve benefited a lot if he had assistant coaches around him. But at the end of the day we won a flag, and you can’t ask any more than that.

Only two backmen carved me up. I got reported for both of them. One was Rod Carter—‘Tilt’. It was in the Second Semi Final, ’86. I kicked about five goals before half-time, then they swapped Tilt on to me. He was just hanging on the whole time. I said something like, “Keep hanging on and I’ll straighten your fucking head out.” He kept on hanging on and hanging on, and I hit him. Just bang, bang, two good ones. No one saw except for the goal umpire. And he reported it. I was found guilty, but given a reprimand so I could play in the Grand Final. Lucky.

The other one, I was playing in the reserves against Collingwood after coming back from injury again. I’d kicked a few goals; next minute, they put (Mick) Gayfer on me. I’d had him before. He was just that bit taller than me, bit stronger than me, bit quicker than me. I always found it hard, and he’d always hang on to you. He couldn’t play but he’d just drag you. He had it over me. About a 30-year-old, coming towards the end of my career and trying to get back into the seniors after injury, frustrated, and I get Mick Gayfer in the twos! Straight away he’s hanging on to me. I said, “Mate, don’t fucking hang on to me again, or I’m going to fucking have to roll ya!” He just started laughing. I went to run at the ball, and he’s just grabbed a hold of me so I had no option, I had to turn around and hit him—a real beauty right on the chin. He’s gone back and he’s just come at me and he’s grabbed my whole head and thrown me on the ground. In doing that he scratched me from my forehead to my chin (laughs). There’s five lines down my face. I looked like I was in jail! (laughs).

As a backman, I tell you what, Fitzroy’s Micky Conlan could seriously play when he was in the mood. He was just a ball of muscle. If he was on song early, you were in for a hard day. He could just run, you know, you couldn’t keep up with him. The sort of guy you’d like to have on your team.

Malcolm Blight, I found him really hard. He’d just stick his arse out and take the mark. Next minute he’d jump on your head, or he’d just get alongside you and push you out of the way with his strength. He used all of his tricks, yeah, and he had plenty.

My feeling at the time was that Wallsy tried to play down the ’86 Grand Final as if it was like another game—there was no nothing in the rooms. Kernahan, Bradley, (Peter) Motley, (Jon) Dorotich, all these guys, it was their first taste of one, and a VFL Grand Final is just not another footy match, it’s the biggest game you’re ever going to play in your life. We ran out on the ground and we sorta straggled out there. Then I looked across and saw Hawthorn come out like soldiers, all bunched together, ran through the banner, boom, boom, boom, warm-up, everything—all grouped together. They smashed us early! We weren’t ready. I think we learned a big lesson from that.

With what happened to Peter Motley, the following year we were never going to lose. It was one of the saddest things in football. He probably would’ve gone down as one of the all-time greats alongside Bradley and Kernahan. To have a car land on you after going home from training, sitting at a traffic lights—just a freak accident. Des English had cancer throughout the year as well. So we had a lot to play for and we had a lot to pay Hawthorn back for. We always felt that if we’d get to the Grand Final we’d be playing Hawthorn. And that there was no way we were going to lose. And we didn’t, so we were able to get a bit of redemption.

I was in three winning Grand Finals. When I look back at my career, in some respects I’m glad that I got to feel what it was like to lose one as well. As a person. It was devastating, you’re in that basket-case category, where you’ve done all that hard work, made the ultimate day, and failed. We regrouped a few days later when Wallsy talked about the game. But when you lose, doesn’t matter what words are spoken, no one listens anyway. Ray Shaw said he drove home crying before the end of the 1990 Grand Final, because he’d played in four losing ones with Collingwood, and it hurt too much to see them winning. He still hasn’t got over those losses. I could only imagine what it might be like for those blokes.

In ’88 Walls was really, really hard on the players because we won the flag in ’87. But we weren’t doing well. One particular game, he found out four of the more experienced players were drinking, and he had a no-drinking rule. So he’s got us all in a group at training and blasted the shit out of these four blokes, to the point he said to one of them, “If you don’t like it, pick up your bag and fuck off and never come back here again!” I’m just standing there, thinking, “I can’t believe you’re saying these things to blokes that have won all these premierships for the club. You don’t have to demean people like that in front of a group.” So I went and saw him through the week and said, “Look, the way you spoke to the players, I don’t think was right.” Next training, he called me to one side, “I was driving home and thinking about what you said to me. It started giving me the fucking shits…” And from that point on didn’t speak to me again. He dropped me about three weeks later—first time I’ve ever been dropped. Just pulled me into the team and goes, “I got dropped at 32—see how you handle it.” And that was it. I was made to train with the Reserves on the No.1 Oval (outside Princes Park), then I’d come back into the side, he’d put me on the bench and he’d drop me. It was like Chinese torture. And I wasn’t sleeping. I’d go to the doctor and he’d start prescribing stronger and stronger sleeping pills. I was going into a depression. I had no idea what a depression was—I thought I was going insane.

It got to the point, I was playing footy and I couldn’t even judge a ball. I still wasn’t sleeping, I was just a complete zombie. Got to the last game, then I was playing in the Reserves in a final. When we lost, I was about to rip my jumper off and throw it into the crowd, and our coach, Col Kinnear, stopped me and pulled it back on. Carlton seniors were still in the finals, but the club covered up and said I’d done a hamstring, when the truth was I was admitted into a hospital in Queensland. I couldn’t accept the fact that I had to take medication for something I couldn’t control, so I’d fight it. I discharged myself and went up to the Gold Coast to try and get away. Meanwhile, Carlton were playing in a Preliminary Final against Hawthorn. I remember walking the streets thinking, “Fuck, if they win this…” I didn’t know what I was capable of doing to myself if this thing I couldn’t see or touch stopped me playing in a Grand Final. I couldn’t handle it. Then, they lost.

I eventually came out of it over summer. The easiest thing I could’ve done was to just walk away. But I thought, “No, I’m not going to finish football this way.” I didn’t care if it was one more game, two more games. I was still contracted, I just wanted to leave on the right terms. So I said to myself, “I’m going back.”  I played the first five games and then I was dropped, but it didn’t worry me after that. I couldn’t be stuffed. I could leave the game on my terms, I’d achieved what I wanted to.

I spoke to a few people and they said, “Oh, no, don’t talk about it, don’t talk about it!” But I remembered as a kid, when someone has a mental illness, people would always go, “Shh, shh!” I thought, “I don’t want to be seen like that. I’m not ashamed of what happened.” I didn’t want to be a poster boy on the topic. I just wanted to highlight that it is an issue and it’s nothing for people to be ashamed of, that they do go through that. You can come out of it, and often as a better person. It’s bigger than football.

I worked at Foster’s for a long time, and part of it I used to travel around and induct new people in the company. And I loved going to the old footy clubs and looking at the premiership photos. Doesn’t matter what level, you see 20 smiling faces and coaches and whatever. Each of those teams, they’re the only ones that really know what went on throughout the year, the stories that they had, different things that happened, but at the end of the day, they won a premiership. So it’s unique to that bunch of blokes at that particular time. At any level.

After I retired I went back to Western Australia. I was coaching over there, it was a career path I seemed to be following, but we decided, as a family, to come back to Melbourne. Walls had been sacked only a few weeks after I left. ‘Jezza’ (Alex Jesaulenko) had taken over, then by the time I got back, Parkin was coaching. There were no assistant coaches in those days. There was obviously no opportunity for me at Carlton, so I ended up on the board.

I hated every moment of being on the Carlton board. But there’s always this mystique about it and what that represents, and I decided that I had to experience it. But after a while I realised a lot of people that want to be on boards—not all, but a lot—are frustrated footballers. (laughs)

The first five years I was at Carlton we didn’t beat Essendon. In anything. In night games, day games, finals. That included our two premiership years. And the Essendon blokes were pretty similar to us in a lot of ways, their ’84, ’85 teams. They always reckon if they had played us in the Grand Finals of ’81 or ’82, they would’ve won. It just so happened that we didn’t get to meet. I would’ve loved to have played them in a Grand Final—about ’83 would’ve been good—just to settle that once and for all.

Being named in Carlton’s Team of the Century was a great honour. Whether I was in the team or on the bench, it didn’t really matter. I look at who I consider at least as good a footballers that aren’t even in the team, players like David McKay, Wayne Harmes—it’s subjective. That’s why I don’t get hung up about it. Team of Century, Hall of Fame, they look at statistics, records, how many best and fairests you won, goals kicked, how many premierships… I think it’s all bullshit. I get more satisfaction out of people on the street coming up to me, saying, “I enjoyed the way that you played football.”

 

This interview with Ken Hunter is an extract from Heart & Soul, Footy stories by those who played the game, by Matt Zurbo (Slattery Media, 2019). The book is available from participating bookstores, or at

https://books.slatterymedia.com/store/viewItem/heart—soul–footy-stories-by-those-who-played-the-game

 

Table of Contents (Players):

 

  • 1  Billy Williams ………………………………………………………………………………………………12
  • 2  Ray Stokes……………………………………………………………………………………………………….20
  • 3  Russell ‘Hooker’ Renfrey…………………………………………………………………….27
  • 4  Thorold Merrett …………………………………………………………………………………………36
  • 5  Allen Aylett…………………………………………………………………………………………………….50
  • 6  Ron Barassi…………………………………………………………………………………………………….58
  • 7  Ron Stockman …………………………………………………………………………………………….69
  • 8  Ken Fraser……………………………………………………………………………………………………….75
  • 9  Lindsay Fox ……………………………………………………………………………………………………83
  • 10  Brian Brushfield…………………………………………………………………………………………90
  • 11  Dennis Munari ………………………………………………………………………………………….99
  • 12  Graham Cornes……………………………………………………………………………………….. 110
  • 13  Robert McGhie………………………………………………………………………………………… 127
  • 14  Peter Knights……………………………………………………………………………………………… 138
  • 15  Rene Kink …………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 149
  • 16  Robert Flower ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 159
  • 17  Ken Hunter………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 169
  • 18  Ian Paton ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 185
  • 19  Greg Burns…………………………………………………………………………………………………… 197
  • 20  MarkYeates…………………………………………………………………………………………………210
  • 21  Andy Goodwin …………………………………………………………………………………………. 221
  • 22  Mark Zanotti……………………………………………………………………………………………….230
  • 23  Joe Misiti……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 241
  • 24  Michael O’Loughlin…………………………………………………………………………….. 254
  • 25  Brad Ottens………………………………………………………………………………………………….263
  • 26  Simon Black…………………………………………………………………………………………………277

 

Leave a Comment

*