Tales of Tasmania: Noel Carter

By the age of eighteen he had accomplished what every player strives for, but only few achieve. From humble beginnings as a kid from the small community of Gunns Plains on Tasmania’s North-West Coast, Noel Carter went on to be a rising star at the VFL’s most powerful club and one of the biggest names in Western Australian football. A tough and determined customer, the tenacious rover won premierships at Richmond and South Fremantle during his fifteen years of senior football. Earlier this week, he joined me to relive some of the high points of his decorated career and to share his thoughts about Tasmanian football in 2018.

Known for being a willing competitor, the defining characteristic of Carter’s game was his attack on the ball – winning the physical contest was the number one objective, everything else was secondary. However, it was not his time spent in the Ulverstone seniors as a sixteen year old that gave him a hardened edge, but rather the games he played whilst in primary school.  ‘I think I developed my resolve and determination as a grade 3 student at Preston primary school playing against the grade 6s. As a junior I played up several age groups’, Carter said. Indeed, it was this determination from a young age that led to great rewards. By the end of the 1972 season, the now seventeen year old Carter had played two full seasons for the Robins, putting forward some impressive displays. This culminated in a senior best and fairest award and All-Australian Schoolboy honours. Despite this, he was left out of the Tasmanian senior side, something that still puzzles Carter to this very day – ‘You need to ask the selectors. They picked a half-back flanker to rove and I had done pretty well in the all the trial games’, he said.

Early on, it was clear that Carter was capable of great achievements. In 1969, two years prior to playing his first senior game, Richmond signed him as a fourteen year old following the Perth Schoolboys carnival. ‘Schwabbie (Alan Schwab) came to Gunns Plains for dad’s signature because I was too young to sign anything. Mum cooked a beautiful roast and the rest is history’, he said. While still playing for Ulverstone, Carter would travel to Melbourne during the school holidays to train at Punt Road Oval, a ground that played host to a number of Tasmanian icons – names like Hart, Stewart and Sproule. These stars from his home State were not the only names that inspired the young man. The squad also boasted further champions, such as Bartlett, Bourke and Clay. ‘I don’t think you ever forget those first few hours/days at any club. I was in awe when I walked into the Ulverstone sheds, the same applied when I walked into Punt Road’, Carter said. Making it to Richmond was not as clear cut of a transition as it seemed, though.

In February 1973, Carter had shifted across Bass Strait to Melbourne to start pre-season with the Tigers and, by his own admission had performed well in the scratch matches. Back in Tasmania, it was clear that his home club was not going to give the young star up without a fight. ‘Ulverstone and Richmond could not agree on my clearance so I missed the first seven games of the VFL season. Once both clubs had reached an agreement I went back to Ulverstone and played two games in that ’73 season while the clearance went through’, he said. Such a set-back only made the young man hungrier and desperate to make an immediate impact. What followed was simply remarkable. After playing four of the last five games of season 1973, the eighteen year old Noel Carter found himself etched in the history books of the VFL forever, as a premiership player under the legendary Tom Hafey. It is a feat that he still looks back on with a level of shock- ‘I was determined to do well, but it wasn’t in my wildest dreams to be a premiership player at the time’, Carter said.

Noel Carter listens intently to coach Tom Hafey during an in-game address. Picture: Google Images.

While it was a great initiation to the VFL, the dream start did not last and by 1977, Carter found himself on the fringes at Richmond. A young rover by the name of Dale Weightman was making waves and was seen as a high priority by club secretary, Graeme Richmond. As one door closed, another was to open straight away. Carter’s Former team mate, Mal Brown, a close associate of (Graeme) Richmond had been appointed South Fremantle coach in 1978, meaning that there was a push for Carter to head to Western Australia. ‘I wasn’t too disappointed as I was only going for a year and I thought a new opportunity in the VFL would arise. Various overtures were made to the secretary at Richmond for the ’79 season, but they were simply nestled at the bottom of the “in tray”‘, he said. Little did he know that the move West would be one of great opportunity and rejuvenation.

The South Fremantle Bulldogs of the years 1978-82 were renowned for their tough approach and excellent play. Ruckman and dual Sandover medallist, Stephen Michael was one of the finest to have never graced the VFL, while big game player, Maurice Rioli would captivate audiences with his ferocious tackling and superhuman skills. All of this of course, is without mention of future Brownlow medalist, Brad Hardie who was just beginning his league career. Led by captain Carter, the Bulldogs played in three straight grand finals from 1979-81, tasting premiership success in 1980 with a ten goal win over Swan Districts. The same year was also one of great individual achievement for Carter, winning the club leading goal kicker and best and fairest awards, as well as finishing runner up in the Sandover medal count. Rather than reflect on his own accolades, Carter instead chooses to look back on this great team and their achievements very fondly – ‘individual awards are nice, and I captured a few, but premierships are what all players chase…We had some great players who jelled together as a very good team. We were very disappointed to come up short on two occasions; rest assured we left nothing in the tank’, he said.

All of this could not be achieved without a phenomenal coach and Mal Brown is someone that Carter speaks very highly of. ‘Mal was a very clever man, as well as coach. He made sure he was surrounded by good people. He was loyal and protective, but cajoled the best out of all involved… if you had a strength in an area his side was lacking, you were recruited’, he said. Coaching and selecting were two avenues explored in Carter’s post-playing days, but nothing could compare to running out with teammates into a big game. ‘For me there was nothing better than playing the game, being competitive, getting up when you were knocked down, getting to the top and resisting all challenges. I loved the contest’, he said.

Today, Noel Carter calls Western Australia home – One year of playing turned into thirty-eight years of business ownership, a loving family and triumphs over South Australia and Victoria as captain of his new State. Tasmania’s North West Coast still remains close to his heart however. He is proud of his achievements for the Apple Isle and still considers himself a one-eyed Ulverstone Robin.  ‘My State of Origin games for Tasmania were significant. To run out with some of the gun players at the time Hudson, Eade, Sutton –  even though we did not taste success’, he said. When asked about the lack of numbers partaking in football on the North-West Coast, Carter spoke of the time in which the game was driven by the local community and schools. Instead of allowing kids to have excess idle time, he wants teachers and parents to be key drivers of the game for a younger generation. Talking of his time in Tasmania’s Schoolboy sides, he said,  ‘everyone was a volunteer, mums and dads put in to get their boys to training or State trials, where nothing was too much trouble. You had the backing of the grassroots people. I distinctly remember a dance being held in the Gunns Plains Hall to raise funds for my Perth trip’. In terms of administration going forward, Carter left a simple analogy – ‘I guess as long as we brew Boags at one end of the State and Cascade at the other we are never going to have parity!’.


Noel Carter’s Football Record:

Ulverstone FC Player – 1971-72, 44 games, 61 goals (1972 Best and Fairest)

Richmond FC Player – 1973-77, 50 games, 55 goals (1973 Premiership)

Tasmania Schoolboys – 1969-70 (Captain, 1969-70 All-Australian)

Tasmanian Representative – 7 games

South Fremantle FC Player – 1978-86, 155 games, 303 goals (1979-82, 1985 Captain, 1980, 1984 Best and Fairest, 1980 leading goal-kicker, 1980 Premiership)

Western Austalian Representative – 2 games (1981 Captain)

Perth FC Reserves Coach – 1987

Tasmanian Football Hall of Fame Inductee

South Fremantle Football Club Life Member

Richmond FC Life Member


About Liahm O'Brien

Tasmanian Tiger - Born into the Northey era, blinded by the Wallace era, healed by the Hardwick era - Twitter: @LiahmO_Writing

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