The 38 special

by Ben Birchall

As a Blue Bagger, I’m sure I’m not alone in my…I’ll say it…love for Jeffy Garlett. Not only do I admire his flash, skill and tackling, I love the fact that he doesn’t look like he should be out there. It’s a fear that Brad Fisher shared in the small paper ( ) earlier this year, with this memorable quote:

“He was so skinny and I said to Brett Ratten, ‘He’s going to get smashed over here’ and Ratts just said: ‘Mate, no one is going to catch him.’”

That quote sets up a sort of mythology about Garlett that might be a little premature, sure, but so far it’s proving right, as illustrated best by this image ( from Carlton’s 119 point demolition of Gold Coast in round 2. Words can’t sum up the excitement that the image evokes and the promise that Garlett shows.

But I fear for Jeff. And it’s not because he’s skinny. It’s because of the number on his back.

If you look through the Carlton lockers (, only one locker under 40 is bare of names, meaning no player in that number has ever played 100 games. Dig a bit deeper, and you’ll see that 38’s have also been on the end of bad, and in one case, tragic luck. I’m reluctant to use the c-word, but there does appear to be a curse on the number 38.

The record-holding 38 is Shane Robertson (, who played 80 games between 1983 and 1991. He was a solid player, remembered for his distinctive t-shirt jumper (, who managed to play in the 1987 premiership side. No bad luck there. Not yet anyway. But a few years later, while acting as player coach for Hepburn 1994, Robertson dislocated his neck and spent weeks in traction.

Colin Holt ( played 20 games between 1955 and 1957 in the 38, drifting in and out of the side before crossing to Richmond. But he’s best remembered for his debut, when he was suspended for 8 weeks for kicking Charlie Sutton.

The 38 I remember best was Rohan ‘Whoosha’ Welsh (, a handy forward who played 42 games between ’92 and ’97 for a return of 59 goals. His career was cruelled by injury. But where the curse of 38 comes in is that Whoosha didn’t damage his knee in a heroic on-field accident. He damaged it – and so badly that he missed two seasons – jumping over a fence on an end of season trip. He never quite made it back into the side.

The most tragic story, however is of Jeff Trotman ( He was a promising young player who managed 3 games in 1965 but was delisted at the end of the season. Two years later, having just turned 24, he was killed in a car accident.

So Jeffy, keep running, keep injecting your brand of excitement into the game. But for god’s sake be careful.


  1. Andrew Fithall says

    I thought we had our quota of Carlton supporters on this site. Who let this bloke in? Has John Butler departed and created a vacancy?

  2. John Butler says

    Get used to us AF.

    Do you want to come around for our Grand Final marathon nights?

    Collingwood folk are especially welcome. You feature so often. And it’s always a happy ending (for us).

  3. Andrew Fithall says

    JB. I only watch grand finals played in the current millennium. Do you have any of those?

    Actually, we should be grateful for the presence of Ben Birchall. It provides the Almanac with vicarious representation at the forthcoming Community Cup on 26 June I believe he is playing for the Megahertz after resisting the big offer to cross over to the Rock Dogs.

  4. John Butler says

    Geez AF

    That would make for a short night.

  5. Just quietly, I started this for my blog on the Blues website, but the curse was so scary, I didn’t want to terrify Jeffy.

    And yes, Andrew, I will be lining up for the Megahertz again. The Rock Dogs offered me a job as an environmental ambassador at Visy, but I resisted.

    Thanks for having me Almanacers! Long time reader, first time writer.

  6. Andrew Fithall says

    I suppose we should welcome you Ben. And look. Today is the first anniversary of you being awarded a very special sporting accolade Love the photo.

  7. Mic Rees says


    Most famous “name” to have worn #38 would be Brian Henderson (2 games 1964)

    Bob Edmond (Jocks BIG brother) for 10 games in 67/68


    BTW – It was twenty years ago today Dogs 8.9-57 Carl 1.10-16. And, no, it wasn’t a free to Arceri !

  8. Come on Mic…Dale Morris is the best from the Dogs (and, Tom reminds me, it was Crossy’s old number!).

  9. johnharms says

    Knackers in the Community Cup:

    B. Birchall
    D. Bridie
    S. Pang
    J. Origlasso
    Tinsel T. Wilson
    J. Harms (never played in a losing side)


    I know D. Bridie played because I missed him with a pass from 20 metres.


  10. johnharms says

    38 is a revered number at GFC – Austin Mc Crabb.

  11. Thanks Blighty. Was he better than his Dad?

  12. Dave Nadel says

    Danien Monkhorst, Ian Brewer and Ray Gabelich wore #38 before dropping to lower numbers, but the best Collingwood player to wear #38 throughout his entire career was Robert Hyde. He played 1973-77, technically also 1978 when he was injured all season and virtually retired – actually crossed to Essendon in 1979 but only managed one gane before re-injuring the knee that had wrecked his 1978 season.

  13. Andrew Fithall says

    JTH – T Rogers?

  14. johnharms says

    Yes, and Tim Rogers. How could I forget? I met him when he took a screamer sitting on my head.

  15. Austim McCrabb – the poor man’s Gary Malarkey.

  16. Peter Flynn says

    Austin was awarded the coveted 38 when we went to Hawthorn.

  17. Peter Flynn says

    He not we.

    I’m delirious from exam marking.

  18. johnharms says

    Bugger, and I thought you had a story to tell: that McCrabb would only sign with Geelong if the committee agreed to take the half forward flanker, Peter Flynn, as well.

    (There are actually many stories of only signing if you sign my mate as well – a classic was Bill Gunn, C. Ward’s grandfather, an unheralded star, who would only sign if they picked up Freddy Goldsmith. Both were eventually terrific players. Freddy won a Brownlow because, as he told me, he played full-back and South were so bad the footy was always up his end of the ground.

  19. JTH

    I made a rare (well, one and only) appearance in the Community Cup (2006 from memory).

    Never had a soft-tissue injury throughout my middling country footy/suburban footy career, yet strained an hamstring just before half-time.

  20. johnharms says

    And Craig Little from ‘The Spin” days.

  21. Mic Rees says

    Crio- First #38 I can remember was Terry Wilkins – 20 games for Dogs 73/74, crossed to the Dees and later captained Sandringham (1981?).

    Terry is probably best remembered for his short career as an around the groundsman for 3GL. When asked for the final score of the match he was covering responded (words to the effect of) – “They’ve taken the #$%^&* scores off the board”.

    Apologies to Terry should he read this – I’m sure I’ve misquoted you, sorta.


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