The North Geelong junior star who became an AFL great

The North Geelong junior star who became an AFL great

Carlton legend Ken Hands has passed away aged 91.

Hands died peacefully last night, surrounded by his son John and daughters Janet and Robyn.

The AFL Hall of Fame inductee and Carlton team of the century forward was the last surviving member of Carlton’s 1945 and 1947 premiership sides as of November, 2014.

DRsN5cOUQAEVROgNevertheless he would first make his mark with North Geelong as a star forward of the region’s junior competition as local historian Mick Robinson OAM recalled.

“At the age of 15 Hands kicked 100 goals in 1942 for North Geelong,” Robinson said.

“He also sustained an injury late in the season which cost North the premiership that year.”

“During the war Geelong had a boy’s league, there was no senior football.”

“North Geelong was the powerhouse so he was the star of the region given the postponing of the Geelong Football Club as well.”

Hands’ teammate Tom Morrow was recruited to Geelong in 1945 while the return of senior football would see many others guide North Geelong to seven straight grand finals in 1949-55.

However Hands would be the first of the group to climb the senior premiership dais shortly after making his AFL/VFL debut for Carlton against St Kilda at Princess Park.

By 1957 the 30-year-old would call time on his 211 game playing career against Hawthorn before a semi-final crowd of 69,455 at the MCG.

Carlton’s youngest player that day was an 18-year-old John Nicholls.

Nicholls, considered Carlton’s greatest player to this day, visited Hands yesterday morning before his passing.

As a forward and ruckman Hands had a breakout year in 1953; taking out Carlton’s best and fairest award after finishing sixth in the Brownlow medal count.images

This would mark the first of his five seasons as captain.

His journey in the lead up was unique.

“I had to stand out in ’44 because I was tied to Geelong. I was 18 when I first played in ’45 and I was the youngest then,” Hands told Tony De Bolfo of Carlton media in 2015.

“In those days I was still living with my family in Highton, about five miles out of Geelong.”

He added, “I used to ride a bike to Geelong station, catch the train up to Melbourne to play, then catch the train home that night.”

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“I did that for five years and never missed a game.”

As Carlton’s coach from 1959-64, Hands recorded a 58-2-48 win/loss tally; guiding the Blues to the 1962 grand final thanks to a five-point win over Geelong in the preliminary final replay.

“Dad’s first coaching experience came when he coached the Victorian team in 1954. He won all eight games from then on,” his son John told the Herald Sun in 2015.

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“He then won his first eight games as Carlton coach, so he had a 16-game run.”

Hands’ career would be acknowledged by Carlton when named in the side’s team of the century, placed in a forward line featuring Alex Jesaulenko and Stephen Kernahan.

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The Carlton legend then joined the likes of Paul Salmon, Chris Langford, Mark Bickley and Guy McKenna in the AFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony of 2009.

Nevertheless the former North Geelong forward will always be remembered as Carlton’s 1945 premiership hero.

“That was the bloodbath grand final Carlton played against South Melbourne at Princess Park,” Robinson added.

“I was too young to remember it but when we were growing up in the post-war it stood out as one of the more infamous grand finals because of all the violence on and off the field.”

Hands was one of nine players reported across 16 offences for striking fellow 18-year-old (and 1949 Brownlow medallist) Ron Clegg but was found non-guilty.

Other names included Brownlow winner Herbie Matthews (severely reprimanded for throwing the ball away) and future movie star Bob Chitty (suspended for elbowing, serving eight weeks).

That muddy afternoon Hands was knocked out in the second quarter by South Melbourne full back Jim Cleary yet still played on and kicked three goals.

His resilience was well documented throughout his side’s 28-point victory; Carlton’s seventh of 16 premierships before a record crowd of 62,986 (almost double of the venue’s current capacity).

It also marked the first time a side won the premiership from fourth on the ladder since Geelong’s victory in 1931.

“I once asked Ken Hands how many players from the 1945 blood bath grand final between Carlton and South Melbourne would get a game in today’s game,” AFL legend Kevin Bartlett posted on Twitter this morning.

“He said ‘not too many’ but added, ‘not too many of today’s players would have got a game in 1945’. A brilliant answer. RIP.”

By Alex Tigani
GDFL Media (23/12/2017)

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