Career : 1980 - 1985
Debut : Round 1, 1980 vs Collingwood, aged 26 years, 185 days
Carlton Player No. 882
Games : 174 (97 at Carlton)
Goals : 13 (1 at Carlton)
Guernsey No. 15
Last Game : Round 10, 1985 vs Hawthorn, aged 31 years, 249 days
Height : 194 cm ( 6 ft. 4 in.)
Weight : 97 kg (15 stone, 4 lbs.)
DOB : 25 September, 1953
Premiership Player 1981, 1982
Vladimir ‘Val’ Perovic was four years old in 1958, when his parents and their family of four boys and two girls arrived in Australia from Croatia, and settled into country life at Ballarat. Some 27 years later, when Val retired from the game of Australian Football as a dual Premiership player with Carlton, he left with a reputation as one of the outstanding tall defenders of his generation.
Perovic found his way to Princes Park in 1980 after a messy parting from his original club, St Kilda – with whom he had played 77 games in seven seasons in a variety of positions including the ruck, wing, and centre half-back. Two years earlier, he had worn the Big Vee for Victoria against WA, and was considered a future star for the Saints. However, late in 1979, after his team had suffered a particularly heavy defeat, St Kilda President Lindsay Fox issued an edict to all the club’s country-based players, demanding that as from the following season, they were to live and train in Melbourne, or move on.
Perovic immediately spoke out against Fox, and in a shock reaction, was put on the trade market before the year was out. Meanwhile, over at Princes Park, Carlton was in turmoil, too. Under captain-coach Alex Jesaulenko, the Blues had beaten Collingwood in the 1979 Grand Final, then fallen into disarray as President George Harris was tipped out of office by a reform group headed by Ian Rice. Jesaulenko had publicly supported Harris, so he too resigned when George was voted out.
In the weeks following the election, ‘Jezza’ was cleared to St Kilda as their new captain-coach, and Perovic arrived in his place. It was one of the great trades of its time - especially for the Blues. While St Kilda had gained an ageing superstar, the reigning Premiers had picked up a 26 year-old, 77-game key position prospect with his best years still ahead of him. (Thank you very much, Lindsay!)
At Carlton, Perovic was presented with the number 15 guernsey previously worn by 1970 Premiership defender Phil Pinnell, and told by coach Peter Jones that the key post at centre half-back was his for the taking, if his attitude and application were up to scratch. On both counts, Perovic lived up to expectations. A friendly and garrulous character, he soon became the epicentre of social events at Carlton whenever a feed, a few beers and some good laughs were on offer.
On the field, the Blueboys comfortably made the 1980 finals under Jones, only to bow out in straight sets after successive defeats to arch rivals Richmond and Collingwood. By year’s end, Perovic was settled in at centre half-back, where his booming clearing kicks began to be accompanied by a loud shout of "woof" from the terraces, whenever the ball left his boot. Said to have been started by a group of university students, the novelty soon caught on, and pretty soon the cry was more often a roar.
In 1981 "Percy" Jones was stood aside, to be replaced by former Hawthorn Premiership player and coach David Parkin, who brought a more scientific approach to coaching with him. Although the Carlton squad of that time wore their ‘Party Boys’ reputation quite proudly, Parkin successfully melded his code of peak physical and mental preparation with the "train hard, play hard, party hard" philosophy favoured by Jesaulenko and Jones - and the team responded.
Perovic had a breakout year for the Blues in ‘81, and was rewarded with his second state team selection at centre half-back. A few weeks later - boosted by the brilliance of their interstate recruits Hunter, Bosustow and Fitzpatrick, Carlton finished top of the ladder after the home and away rounds, and went on to meet Collingwood in the Grand Final. Perovic was assigned a back pocket role on the Pies’ dangerous Craig Stewart, and blanketed him all day. Collingwood led by 21 points late in the third quarter, before the Blues rattled on a clutch of unanswered goals in the last term, and won their 13th flag by 20 points.
In 1982, with the Navy Blues on the way to finishing third on the home and away ladder, Perovic celebrated a special moment when he steered through the one and only goal of his career at Princes Park, against Footscray in round 18. Sent into the ruck to warm up on a cold day, Val took a good pack mark quite a way from goal, and was immediately urged by his team-mates to take the shot. He settled, kicked sweetly, and sent the ball straight through the middle. What was most surprising about that game however, was not who kicked goals, but who didn’t – as the barnstorming Blues scored 30.21 (201) to Footscray’s 10.12 (72).
In September of that year, Carlton snatched a second consecutive flag after a gruelling finals campaign of four cut-throat matches in four weeks. Our Grand Final opponents, Richmond, started hot favourites after beating the Blues easily in the second Semi Final, but erred by going into the match top heavy. "Wow" Jones was superb in the ruck for Carlton, while Bruce Doull and Perovic led a rock-hard defence. Although Perovic finished the game with a broken rib, the "woof" repeatedly echoed around the MCG, as Carlton won Premiership number 14 by 18 points.
The huge physical and mental effort involved in those back to back flags took an increasing toll over the next few seasons, as retirements and injuries made it difficult for the Blues to field their best line-up. Carlton finished fifth in 1983 and third in 1984, when Perovic battled through Carlton’s finals campaign with another jumper full of damaged ribs suffered against Hawthorn in round 18.
By 1985, Val knew the end of his career was looming when he was unable to return to the senior team until round 9, and the very next week, Hawthorn handed the Blues a fearful hiding by 79 points at Princes Park in what turned out to be his last appearance. Although it was an undignified end to a fine career, his standing at Carlton, and in the game as a whole could not be tarnished. One of the finest defenders of his era, and among the very best to have worn guernsey 15 for the Blues, Val’s legacy lived on in the 'Woof!' bestowed on his successors; Ang Christou, Chris Bryan and briefly, Adam Hartlett.
In a footnote to Perovic’s story, it later emerged that St Kilda made a determined bid to lure him back in 1986. But the fires of ambition had long been doused, and he dreaded the thought of another punishing VFL pre-season. Instead, he headed back to the Ballarat League and signed with Golden Point - despite originally being recruited by St Kilda from North Ballarat. At the end of that year he travelled north to Darwin, and finished off his career with one last season with the Nightcliff Tigers in the Northern Territory Football League.
Milestones50 Games (Carlton) : Round 15, 1982 vs Melbourne
100 Games (VFL) : Round 4, 1981 vs Footscray
150 Games (VFL) : Round 15, 1983 vs Melbourne
Career Highlights1980 - 5th Best & Fairest
1981 - Premiership Player
1981 - 8th Best & Fairest
1982 - Premiership Player
LinksArticles: Despised to Blue
Blueseum: Summary of playing statistics for Val Perovic | Perovic's Blueseum Image Gallery