Club trades are commonplace these days, but this wasn’t always the case over the history of the VFL/AFL. Before the time of a designated “Trade Week” and the inevitable swap of players who are ‘surplus to requirements’ (or just wanting to come home), loyalty to a club played a more prominent role and thus changing teams was almost sacrilegious in some cases. On many occasions, players were invited to a new team by virtue of their performance <i>against</i> that team in crucial matches, which formed a positive impression on the coaching staff and playing group. The Blueseum team traces the history of some of these stories –players once ‘despised’, then ‘loved’.

1. Mario Bortolotto:
Geelong 1979-1980: 14 games, 2 goals - Carlton 1981 – 1983: 30 games, 1 goal
Image Mario Bortolotto made his VFL debut for Geelong against an outstanding Carlton side at Kardinia Park in Round 12, 1979. Carlton were enjoying a burst of form which would see them only lose three games over the season and claim the premiership, however Geelong won this encounter by 6 points with Bortolotto blanketing gun Carlton Centre Half Forward Mark Maclure in a physical duel between the two.

Bortolotto was delisted by Geelong prior to the start of the 1981 season but the club’s decision was not actually communicated to him. In somewhat farcical circumstances, an oblivious Bortolotto attended the Geelong guernsey presentation only to find his number 29 had been allocated to Ray Bogunavich. Geelong’s loss was Carlton’s gain however, and Bortolotto was recruited shortly thereafter by the Blues to bolster a defence already boasting names such as Southby, Doull, Perovic, English, and ‘Curly’ Austin.

For a player who described his abilities as modest at best, Bortolotto was a dual premiership player over 30 games for the Blues and played on some of the best forwards of the early 80s. Bortolotto played a major role in outplaying Richmond’s David Cloke in the 1982 Grand Final to stifle a dangerous Tigers forward line which also boasted Michael Roach and Kevin Bartlett.

2. Frank Marchesani
Fitzroy 1980: 16 games, 17 goals - Carlton 1981 – 1985: 36 games, 26 goals
Image Whilst looking to add pace to an already formidable ‘mosquito fleet’, Carlton recruited Frank Marchesani to the club in 1981. Marchesani had been in Fitzroy’s best players in both home and away games against Carlton in his first season of VFL football in 1980, culminating in a 4 goal effort in round 22 at Princes Park when a rampaging Fitzroy came back from 51 points down to ultimately taste defeat in a thriller by 4 points.

Performances like this saw Marchesani had awarded 'The Sun' newspaper recruit of the season in 1980 at Fitzroy and he stood out of football in 1981 until Wes Lofts was able to gain his services by releasing Peter Francis on the deadline of clearance (June 30). Incidentally, that same evening Francis turned up to play for Carlton in a Tuesday 'night' match against North Melbourne, and was told that he was now a Fitzroy player due to Marchesani’s arrival.

Whilst finding it hard to displace other new recruits such as South Australian Phil Maylin and youngster David Glascott, Marchesani managed to play 36 games in 5 years for Carlton between 1981 and 1985, the highlight being the 1983 night premiership. Marchesani also had a presence at two grand finals as somewhat of a novelty, in particular in 1982 when he kept the Richmond coaching staff guessing by warming up on field with David Clarke (neither were selected in the line-up) , and another one where he won the grand final sprint.

3. Val Perovic
St Kilda 1973 – 1979: 76 games, 39 goals - Carlton 1980 – 1985 – 97 games, 1 goal
Although known as someone who played as hard off the field as on it, Val Perovic was a talented Centre Half Back who was recruited amongst the confusion and ignominy of the off season in 1979-1980. Perovic was recruited on the back of a remarkable set of performances for St Kilda against Carlton, where in the 9 games that in which he participated between the teams from 1973 to 1979, he was named in St Kilda’s best players on 8 occasions.

As a player who had played representative football for Victoria as part of a weak St Kilda team, Perovic already had a reputation as a fearless defender who was known for his booming kicks out of defence. His aggression complemented the industrious brilliance of Bruce Doull and Geoff Southby, and between them they formed the cornerstone of the Blues key defenders in the early 1980’s.

Perhaps Perovic’s off-field activities obscured his value on the field to the Blues hierarchy, as he never polled well in the Best and Fairest despite polling extremely well in the Brownlow between 1980-1982 with 12, 11 and 13 votes respectively.

4. Justin Madden
Essendon 1980 – 1982: 45 games, 20 goals - Carlton 1983 – 1996: 287 games, 170 goals
Justin Madden played 45 serviceable games for Essendon prior to moving to Carlton, at the start of an amazing sequence of victories for the Don’s against Carlton (unbeaten between 1981 and late 1985). Madden constantly lived in his brother Simon’s shadow at Essendon, and with Mike Fitzpatrick and Wow Jones coming to the end of their careers and Carlton, Madden was snapped up by Carlton along with David Honybun as the next generation of Blues tap ruckmen. Contributing to Carlton’s decision was the fact that in Essendon’s two home and away games against Carlton in 1982 – both Rounds 2 and 12 - Madden had been named in Essendon’s best players.

After moving to Carlton, Madden started out spending time up forward, initially with some degree of success before languishing in the reserves for much of 1984 and the start of 1985. The rest of his 1985 season, however, was one of the few highlights in a disappointing year for Carlton, and his outstanding efforts saw him runner up in the Brownlow to Brad Hardie.

Throughout the rest of his career, apart from a brief form reversal in the early 1990s, Madden was one of the first picked in the Carlton team, highlighted by premierships in 1987 and 1995, dual Carlton Best & Fairest awards in 1985 and 1991 (only one other player from another League club to be a dual Carlton B&F winner was Jim Francis in 1935 and 1940).

Interestingly, both of Madden’s B&F seasons were in the final year of his contract whilst he was re-negotiating his 'new' contract, showing that he thrived on the pressure to perform. His longevity at the highest level saw players from Ashman to Ratten benefit greatly from his presence, and he will be rightly remembered as a Carlton legend for his 287 games in the navy Blue.

5. David Rhys-Jones
South Melbourne/Sydney 1980 – 1984: 76 games, 39 goals - Carlton 1985 – 1992: 106 games, 73 goals
Many people forget that David Rhys-Jones originally played for South Melbourne during their painful transition to the Sydney Swans in the early 1980s. Rhys-Jones truly fits the mould of ‘despised to loved’, as he was widely loathed by supporters from other teams due to his mixture of aggression and somewhat laconic and arrogant talent on the field. Rhys-Jones had already made his mark on the league through his skill and tribunal appearances before being a recruitment target, but it would not have been lost on the Carlton hierarchy that he was named in Sydney’s best players as a 20 year old in a losing team against the Blues in Round 7, 1983.

After his recruitment to Carlton prior to the start of the 1985 season, he displayed flashes of brilliance in his first year at the club in a somewhat frustrating year for the club, and this continued in the golden period of 1986-1988 when Carlton was rivaled only by the exceptional Hawthorn team.

Rhys-Jones won the Norm Smith medal in the 1987 Premiership when he convincingly won an intriguing dual with a strangely subdued (perhaps intimidated?) Dermott Brereton, and continued to be a player who was central to the fortune of Carlton teams up until his retirement at the end of the 1992 season. Rhys-Jones’ aggressive nature famously saw him reported a number of times, however it is as a skillful wingman and sometime key position player that his greatest contribution will be remembered.

6. Ron Barassi
Melbourne 1953 – 1964: 204 games, 295 goals - Carlton 1965 – 1969: 50 games, 35 goals
The move of Ron Barassi from Melbourne to Carlton prior to the 1965 season caused shockwaves amongst the VFL community. Previously, players who moved clubs had done so primarily to seek better opportunities elsewhere, or for practical reasons due to their employment or proximity to training grounds. Barassi’s move from his spiritual home to a Carlton club which had gone without a premiership since 1947 was seen by many as blatant financial opportunism, although the challenge of coaching a VFL team seems to have been just as, if not more important to him. Despite many players in that era actually moving from the VFL to country leagues for greater pay, Barassi’s appointment as playing coach was evidence of heresy to many.

Barassi’s recruitment to the club was no doubt driven by the need to secure a high profile leader to the club who could bring sustained success (with parallels to the recent acquisition of Chris Judd), although it should be noted that as a player he had performed consistently well against Carlton. In fact, Barassi had received commendations for his performance against the Blues in 7 of his last 8 games against the club, which further reinforced the club’s attempts to lure him to Princes Park.

Although he enjoyed only a short tenure as a Blues player, his leadership and ability to exact the best out of his players ushered in a 20 year golden period for Carlton, whilst hastening a Demon freefall which has seen only two (losing) grand final appearances since Barassi’s departure.

7. Matthew Hogg
Footscray 1988 – 1991: 59 games, 4 goals - Carlton 1992 – 1999: 114 games, 38 goals
Matthew Hogg was custom delivered to Carlton from Footscray via the 1991 draft. In a move which saw the Blues exercising rare judgment in its attempts at recycling players in the 1990s, Hogg filled a void as a tagger and defender who could find the ball himself as well as restrict key opposition onballers. Hogg had previously played with the Bulldogs for four years, including a good performance against Carlton in Round 1, 1989. Hogg was named in his team’s best players in the surprise 59 point win against the Blues at Princes Park, a game which ushered in a dark 3 year period for Carlton after having been a league powerhouse in the preceding 3 seasons.

Hogg played in the 1995 premiership for Carlton, and many have vivid memories of him receiving an ‘accidental’ karate chop to the throat during the game and only being able to raise an inaudible rasp when interviewed after the match. Hogg continued to be a great servant of the club over the following seasons until his retirement after the 1999 grand final. For his size (standing only slightly taller than current player Eddie Betts), Hogg was a courageous player who played to his strengths and was popular amongst both fans and teammates alike, winning the 1996 Best Clubman award.

Over the past 30 years, much more emphasis has been placed on player trades at VFL/AFL level. This has been reflected in the price of trades, either in dollar value in the old ‘open slather’ period, or via sacrificing draft picks after the introduction of formal trading periods. Carlton has traditionally not enjoyed a great reputation as savvy traders, however it is worthwhile celebrating the trades which have paid dividends to satisfy a short-term need (Bortolotto, Marchesani), or those which have paid off over a longer period such as Perovic and Madden. With relatively recent acquisitions such as Stevens and Scotland playing a crucial role in the much hoped-for Carlton resurgence, may the Blues future trades continue to reap dividends.

For part 1 of this article, click here.