Career : 2007 - 2013
Debut : Round 21, 2007 vs North Melbourne, aged 19 years, 156 days
Carlton Player No. 1106
Games : 63
Goals : 32
Last Game: Round 7, 2013 vs St Kilda, aged 24 years, 357 days
Guernsey No. 22
Height : 201 cm (6 ft. 7 in.)
Weight : 93 kg (14 stone, 9 lbs.)
DOB : 21 March, 1988
Queenslander Shaun Hampson was recruited by the Blues at number 17 (priority selection) in the 2006 National Draft. Although he was an outstanding all-round junior sportsman – having excelled at athletics, swimming and soccer during his early teenage years – Shaun hadn’t played Australian football seriously until he joined the Mount Gravatt Vultures at the age of 16. Yet within two years, he was representing his home state at Under-18 level, and attracting interest from just about every AFL club in that year’s draft camp.
Shaun recorded 3 seconds flat for the 20 metre sprint at the camp, coupled with an 86 cm vertical leap. For a 201 cm ruckman, that was astonishing, and placed him in the top 5% of players tested. It was all too promising to resist, so Carlton’s recruiting panel called his name at the appropriate moment, and Hampson became a Blue.
Soon nicknamed ‘Hammer,’ he was nursed through his first season at Princes Park, alternating through the Northern Bullants’ seniors and reserves teams, before making his debut in navy blue against North Melbourne on a Saturday afternoon at Docklands Stadium in round 21, 2007. On a less than memorable occasion for the Bluebaggers, Carlton was demolished by 82 points and Hampson suffered a hand injury early in the game. But his enthusiasm and his work ethic never waned while he was on the field, so he was retained in the side for the following week’s clash with Melbourne. Against the Demons, the big unit in guernsey number 22 gathered 9 disposals, 8 hit outs and 4 marks – including one in the last quarter that resulted in his first career goal from a set shot 40 metres out. Although Melbourne won comfortably, Hampson showed that he was up and running as an AFL footballer.
During Shaun’s second season in 2008, the emphasis was on development. Under new captain Chris Judd, the Blues improved slightly to finish the year in 11th place on the ladder, while Hampson added ten more senior games to his tally amid continued glimpses of his potential. Further improvement followed in 2009; 15 games, three goals and the thrill of playing in his first final – by coincidence in his home town, against the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba. In an encouraging vision of the future for long-suffering Carlton supporters, Hammer shared the ruck duties with Matthew Kreuzer on that warm evening, and both tyros battled manfully as their team fell short of victory by 7 points.
The almost inevitable speed bump in Shaun’s career came along in 2010, when a series of niggling injuries ruined his pre-season preparation and the first half of the year. To make matters much worse for the Blues, Kreuzer wrecked his left knee in round 13, and the team was suddenly facing at least a year without one of the game’s fastest-rising big men. Hampson stepped up in Kreuzer’s absence, playing his first senior match of the season against Brisbane in round 14. He shouldered a major part of the ruck responsibilities during the remaining eight matches of the year, although he was omitted from the team that narrowly lost the Elimination Final to Sydney at the Olympic Stadium. By then, it was obvious that he and Robbie Warnock would be Carlton’s front-line ruckmen - at least in the short term.
Still, overall 2010 had been a tale of bad luck and disappointment for Hampson, so he set himself for an intensive 2011 pre-season, and earned a recall for Carlton's opening round clash against Richmond at the MCG. He then played the first five games of 2011 as a marking target up forward (for a modest return of 4 goals) before he was sent back once more to the Bullants. Then three weeks later Warnock was concussed by a heavy blow to the head against Geelong, so Hampson was recalled for the round 10 match against Melbourne on a Friday night at the MCG.
The big number 22 could scarcely have done more that night, dominating the centre bounces and giving Carlton’s midfield an armchair ride. He did the same next up in the Blues’ big away win over Port Adelaide, and although Warnock was ready to return for round 12 against Brisbane, Hammer’s form was too good for Carlton’s match committee to consider a change. Shaun showed that their faith was well-placed, too, by racking up 22 hit-outs, 5 tackles and 4 contested marks – including a screamer in the first term, when he soared over the pack to pluck a worthy nomination for Mark of the Year.
But just as he was reaching a new level of consistency, the football gods turned their backs on the towering Queenslander. After another very competitive first half against Sydney in round 13, Hammer copped a heavy knock on a knee, and limped to the bench. Later diagnosis revealed a torn posterior cruciate ligament – bringing a premature end to a season of real promise. Still, the club was impressed enough with his progress to reward him with a new 3-year contract. He made it back onto the field for the Bullants late in the year, but Carlton’s match committee decided not to risk him again at senior level.
During the off-season, an eye examination revealed that Hampson was in fact short-sighted – an affliction that caused particular problems during night games. He underwent laser surgery to correct his vision, and began 2012 in top shape, no doubt encouraged by the support of a new partner in the beautiful Megan Gale – Australia’s famous international model, and a passionate Carlton supporter.
Three games into the year, the Navy Blues had crushed Richmond, Brisbane and Collingwood to leap into flag favouritism, thanks in no small way to a dominant ruck division and Hampson’s influence up forward. Providing a viable target in the 50-metre arc, as well as effective back-up to Kreuzer in the ruck, Hammer was averaging 20 hit-outs, 4 marks and two goals a game, just as the Blues’ season imploded.
Six defeats in seven matches between rounds 7 and 14 sent the team tumbling to tenth on the ladder, and things only got worse from there. In the first quarter of the following week’s match against Collingwood, Hampson’s right knee was impacted in a marking contest, and he left the field with his posterior cruciate ligament seriously damaged again. It was a heavy blow for a team already reeling from a long list of casualties, and the pall over Princes Park just got heavier when the club announced that he would undergo immediate surgery, ruling him out for the rest of the season.
While Hammer was recuperating from that second round of knee surgery, Carlton sacked senior coach Brett Ratten, and anointed former West Coast and Collingwood Premiership coach Mick Malthouse as his successor. Helping the Blues come to terms with that development, Hampson returned to full fitness and impressed Malthouse enough to be selected in Carlton’s line-up for round 1 of 2013 - the almost-traditional clash against Richmond at the MCG.
Early in the first quarter of that game, Hammer kicked the Blues’ first major, and went on to take 8 marks in a solid performance. But the next day he fell ill and was sent straight back into hospital to have his appendix removed, which kept him sidelined until round 3. He played the next five matches straight, but was omitted after Carlton’s close loss to St Kilda in round 9. From then on, Shaun played out the season with the Northern Bullants, making it clear that Malthouse and Carlton’s match committee now preferred the ruck duo of Robbie Warnock and Matthew Kreuzer, with occasional assistance from Levi Casboult.
Therefore, as the season drew to a close, speculation persisted that Hampson was looking for opportunities at another club, and that Carlton was willing to negotiate. Sure enough, when the post-season trade week rolled around, those rumours were confirmed when Richmond stepped up with their offer of a second round National Draft pick for the 25 year-old. Carlton accepted, and Hampson was off to a new start at Punt Road, with nothing but goodwill from all concerned at Princes Park.
"Shaun has been a much-liked and valued member of our team, and he has a terrific work ethic," Carlton football manager Andrew McKay said at the time. "Although he hasn't played in many senior games this season, he has continued to make a significant contribution to the club behind the scenes. However, in the interests of both parties, there is a greater opportunity for Shaun at Richmond, and it allows us another pick in the draft. We thank Shaun for his contribution to Carlton, and wish him all the very best for the future."