Skill, strength, speed, attitude and luck – just some of the factors we expect to influence the result in a game of Australian Rules football. But sometimes, other factors might come into play – a time keeping mistake, an umpiring error or just a moment of pure brilliance - that tips the balance of a game one way or the other and imprints that game into your memory. We have been through the Blueseum’s game records and highlight the following actual game events to both add to and augment your memories of Carlton’s controversial finishes over the years.


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Round 18, 1944 - Carlton lost to Footscray by 1 point

This match decided which of the two sides would participate in the finals. The Blues appeared home when they led by 17 points midway through the last term, but Footscray rallied valiantly - drawing level with less than a minute left. It was then that Footscray's Harry Hickey took a strong pack mark 50 metres out from goal, and as he walked back to take his kick, the final bell sounded across the ground. Hickey let fly with a big drop-kick, and the Carlton crowd roared as Bob Chitty appeared to mark the ball right on the goal line. But the goal umpire - after consulting the field umpire - signalled a point and tipped the Blues out of the finals. Carlton players were adamant that Chitty had marked the kick inside the field of play, but their protests fell on deaf ears.

Adding injury to insult, Jack Wrout broke his leg in his final game for the Blues, while captain Bob Atkinson also finished up and returned to VFA club Coburg.



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Preliminary Final Replay, 1962 - Carlton defeated Geelong by 5 points

Peter Barry. This controversy is all about a free kick paid to this great Carlton defender.

To set the scene, Barry was on Cat star forward Doug Wade, who had kicked 6 goals 1 behind for the day, and looked a monty to steal the game. He'd just taken another mark - or so it seemed. Umpire Jack Irving stunned the Geelong supporters and delighted every Blues fan, when he signalled a free kick out of the marking contest to Carlton Full-Back Peter Barry.

As Barry's punt kick sailed downfield, the siren sounded to end the game, and the terraces erupted in a mixture of fury and elation.

Afterward, Irving explained that he had seen Wade hold Barry out of the contest very early, by reaching back and taking hold of his opponents shorts - thus preventing him from fairly contesting the mark. Irving had had no hesitation in awarding the free for holding the man, in one of the bravest and most controversial umpiring decisions in finals history.

Says one Carlton eye-witness who works on the Blueseum: <i>"I recall a split second before he (Wade) grabbed the ball, Wade's arms going back to Barry who was behind him. Irving paid the free kick to Peter Barry who cleared the ball and the siren went. The papers and TV were full on for the next couple of days. Frame by frame photos of the free kick appeared in "The Sun".</i>

Round 5, 1967 - Carlton defeated St Kilda by 5 points

As if the poor Saints don't have enough trouble in trying to make the finals, in this 1967 game the half time siren failed to sound on time. Whilst play continued until the problem was fixed, Carlton defender Barry Gill kicked one of his two for the match - final margin 5 points.

Round 10, 1976 - Carlton lost to North Melbourne by 5 points at Princes Park

North fans would probably think of this comment as sour grapes, and fans of the game itself remember a far more famous incident about 30 seconds later, but Malcolm Blight's mark in their big comeback in this game - ending with Blight's 150 metre torp! - wasn't a mark.

Carlton entered the main break 27 points in the clear, but the Roos fought back to be within 15 at three quarter time. Carlton again controlled the ball in the last, until Malcolm Blight stepped up to turn the game on its head. Blight kicked 2 goals in as many minutes with only a few minutes left, to reduce the margin to just a point. The latter goal was controversial in itself - Blight was paid a mark, but it clearly bobbled off Maclure's forearms. Blight kicked the goal.

As the seconds ticked away, the Blues looked likely until Blight marked about 60-70 metres out, depending on who you talk to. The siren blared, the crowd gasped, the torpedo slowly sailed through the air as if in slow-mo. As the screams heightened, the ball went through. The Roos had won by 5 points.

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Round 12, 1979 – Carlton lost to Geelong by 6 points at Kardinia Park

Scores were tied as this game entered the last few minutes – fans from all over the ground were watching with strong interest as a Geelong kick rolled in to the goal square. Those very same fans clearly saw the nearest Carlton player, Geoff Southby, being held – by the leg no less – away from the slowly rolling ball. But the ball went through, the goal was scored, and Geelong won the game. Says Southby:

''“Glen Middlemiss was the Full Forward at the time and Neville Nash was the umpire. It was in time-on in the last quarter and the scores were very close. Kardinia Park was at fever pitch with almost 30,000 people, mostly Cat's supporters in attendance.

Glen almost had my leg in a bear hug for want of a better description, which significantly retarded my ability to get to the footy as it was rolling through the goal square on its way to goal. I appealed to the near-by Umpire Neville Nash who I thought had a clear view of the incident. I appealed to him with my hand in the air saying "Neville. You must have seen that" or words to that effect. The Geelong supporters were screaming with delight as the ball went through putting the Cats in front on the scoreboard with only a couple of minutes to go in the game.”

Neville Nash ignored my appeal. A very sensible decision I believe, as the Geelong supporters would have probably lynched him if he had paid the obvious free kick to me.”''



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Round 20, 1981 - Carlton lost to Essendon by 1 point

Carlton fans - and players it would seem - thought we had this game won. A last quarter goal by Jim Buckley was greeted with players jumping on each other as though the game was over. And with a margin of 28 points coming into time-on you could just about understand the confidence.

But the Bombers were set to pounce - the Bombers kicked a couple of quick ones, one through Daniher after Bruce Doull slipped on the soft surface, allowing Daniher to mark easily. Watson, Hawker and Neagle were running all over us. In response, Fitzy attempted to run the clock down; flapping his left hand to tell his team-mates to take it easy. According to the publication "100 Years of Australian Football", this time wasting progressed for some 60 seconds! Finally, Fitzpatrick went to kick it out to the press box side, but Umpire Ian Robinson ran in and took the ball off him and handed it to the Bombers. A free kick for time wasting!!!

Although the Bombers missed the goal (Eustice took the free 55 metres out and kicked to Van der Haar, who missed from about 25 metres out), and Merrett also missed another kick, the Bombers were on a run and kicked a further 2 goals to take the lead. The siren sounded, Carlton had given up near a 5 goal advantage, and we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!

Preliminary Final, 1988 - Carlton lost to Melbourne by 23 points

Carlton began a massive final quarter comeback after giving up the ascendancy in the third, but was it potentially derailed by an Umpire's mistake?

We'd already come back from 6 goals down at three quarter time to get within 14 points at the 20 minute mark, but the diminutive Ricky Jackson had a set shot on goal from a free kick at 30 metres out. To the delight of Carlton fans, Jackson's kick hits the post, and Steve Da Rui prepares to kick the ball back in. Meanwhile, Jackson is still cursing himself for this miss.

Whilst this drama was going on, the Goal Umpire actually signals a goal - completely missing that its hit the post. Our run faltered and Melbourne won their way into the Grand Final - unfortunately for them (and the football world!).

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Round 5, 1996 – Carlton defeated West Coast by 1 point at Princes Park

The reigning Premiers took on 1990’s powerhouse West Coast at home in a titanic struggle. Carlton would be without Captain, Stephen Kernahan, Peter Dean, Fraser Brown, Mil Hanna and Dean Rice, and would have to scrounge for goals against the typically dour West Coast defence. Whilst West Australians Earl Spalding, playing his 200th AFL game, kicked 3 majors and Matt Clape kicked 2, other Blues found novel ways to score a goal. In fact the goal was pivotal when you consider the final margin.

The goal in question was claimed by Greg Williams, despite it coming from the feet of Eagle Tony Evans. Evans soccered the ball through the Blues' goals at the Lygon St End of the ground to try to concede a behind, only for Williams to raise his hands to try to claim it as a goal, to which the Goal Umpire agreed. In a game of tight margins, this event could have been the difference, though it would be one of a number of questionable umpiring decisions.

Round 11, 2002 – Carlton lost to Geelong by 4 points

History might show that Carlton only sprang to life at the end of this game and only threatened the surging Cats for half a quarter or so, but it was the way our life was quashed with violent disdain that sticks in the memory of Carlton fans.

For three and a half quarters, the result was never in doubt for the Cats. The Cats were up by 6 or 7 goals and almost finishing up for the week, when Michael Mansfield started getting some touches and both Lance Whitnall and Brendan Fevola firing up forward. With only a couple of minutes left, livewire Matthew Lappin kicked 2 goals; one from 50 metres out from a deliberate out of bounds free against Darren Milburn, and the second from a more than questionable free kick right in front after he fell to the ground in (mock) agony, received a 50 metre penalty and put it through. Suddenly the Blues were in front!!

And here’s where the controversy began – in a shocking year the boys had given us hope, but it was about to be torn away. With 14 seconds left the Cats won the centre bounce and a bullet like pass from future Blue David Clarke hit Peter Riccardi on the chest. Riccardi turned around and gave the ball a mighty left foot roost from 55 metres out, but clearly – from our perspective – the ball hit the fingers of a young Simon Wiggins who was standing the mark, before going through for a goal. The Blues protested - Corey McKernan even punched the post. Coach Brittain remarked 'Riccardi's never kicked a floater in his life' and Carlton’s potential win had turned in to a loss.
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Yet after all of these memorable incidents, perhaps the most famous of all would appear from all Carlton vantage points to not be controversial at all...

Grand Final, 1979 - Carlton defeat Collingwood by 5 points

Already a pivotal player in this game, our man Wayne Harmes would - in the last quarter with the game in the balance - chase down his errant kick from the half forward line and in the immortal words of Peter Landy "he was almost as quick as the kick", dive at the ball and according to Eddie McGuire's memory of it slapped it back into play from the foyer of the Hilton Hotel in Wellington Parade, to the waiting arms of Ken Sheldon in the goals square who popped it through.

Confusion reigned - some thought a Collingwood defender who actually rushed it through for a behind - until the Crowd erupted in a frenzy ... "Sheldon goaled, Sheldon goaled".

History records Carlton as the victor by 5 points to win yet another Grand Final over Collingwood. Magic stuff. Of course, any rational view of the footage shows Harmes clearly in...