Fabulous Phil Carman – an extract about punches

In 1975, with Murray Weideman as coach, Phil Carman and Max Richardson got into a brawl at training.  Punches were thrown.  Weideman grabbed them together and told them to stop.  Carman agreed.  Richardson agreed too.  It would be two years before they forgot the truce.


By 1977, Max Richardson had replaced Des Tuddenham as captain.  Richardson was following in the footsteps of his brother, Wayne, who captained the club from 1971 until 1975.  Both Richardson’s were renowned for their toughness, a hard attitude at the ball and the man.  You couldn’t be captain otherwise.  During pre-season, Hafey ordered a competitive handball drill using half of the ground.


Hafey pitted Carman and Richardson against each other.  As the drill went on, Richardson said Carman wouldn’t leave him alone, pulling at his shorts or jumper, pushing him, maybe trip him up in his endeavour to get the ball.


Stuff Carman would be penalised for during a game.  Hafey let it go.  He was a coach, not an umpire.  Richardson told Carman to stop it.  It was training, not a game and they were both getting the ball.  ‘If you keep it up I’m just going to have to belt you,’ Richardson said.


Carman laughed.  The drill went on.  When Carman and Richardson got near the ball, there was a jumper pull.  The warning had gone unheeded.  ‘I just turned around and biffed him,’ Richardson said.


Carman grabbed Richardson.  Punches flew.  It turned into a wrestle.  Training stopped as two men tried to get at each other. Sam Kekovich and Len Thompson got to the fight first.  ‘Sam grabbed Phil and picked him up as he could because Sam’s a big guy,’ Richardson said. ‘Thommo did the same to me.’


Separated, they threatened violence on each other.  Somehow Thompson now had hold of Carman and wouldn’t let him go.  Amid the maelstrom, Thompson told Carman to check the numbers.  The rest of the squad had lined up behind Richardson.


‘It’s two against 40,’ Thompson said.  Carman stopped struggling and stepped back, angry that Richardson had hit him again.  Richardson and Carman glared at each other.  Hafey ordered the drill to continue.  He singled out the antagonists.  They had a quick word.


‘We said let’s keep going,’ Richardson said.


John Dellamarta said Richardson occasionally sledged Carman at training, quiet words so teammates couldn’t hear.  As for their brawl, he was unsurprised.  ‘It was probably over Phil not conforming with some of the things that everyone else had to do,’ Dellamarta said.  ‘He was good at that, he would do his own thing.’


Richardson and Carman ran warily beside each other.  Afterwards, Carman forgot about it.  If it happened again, he would deal with it.  He considered it part of football.  It is rare, but teammates do occasionally belt each other, or deliberately hurt each other in tackles.


‘I just got on with it,’ Carman said.  ‘Nothing seemed to phase me a great deal.  Just so long as I was playing.’

Richardson said Carman is the only teammate he ever hit.  But tempers often frayed during match practice.  ‘If you were pushing and shoving a little bit and someone got a bit heated, you’d drag them to the ground,’ Richardson said.  ‘And happen to put your elbow in their neck.’


As for the punch that landed on Carman’s head, Richardson regrets it but Carman was annoying the hell out of him.  ‘Being captain of the side it wasn’t really a good thing to do,’ he said.  ‘I didn’t hit him that hard because he never went down.’


Richardson said the incident wasn’t about money or Carman leaving the track early.  He cannot recall ever discussing the money Carman was on with a teammate or official.  He did know that Carman was on a good wage and Collingwood paid a whack of cash to get him from Norwood.


‘No one in those days ever found out what the other player was getting paid,’ Richardson said.  ‘When he came out and performed on match day no one really worried because he’d either kick ten goals or get plenty of touches.’


Fabulous Phil – the Phil Carman story is published by Brolga Publishing.


The book can be purchased here: www.philcarman.com.au

About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Andrew Starkie says

    Looking forward to reading this, Matt.

    Blighy. Beautiful, beautiful Blighty.

  2. Andrew – I actually voted for Blight on the AFL website yesterday…
    Well deserved.
    Legend of the game.

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