Let's face it... you don’t have to be a great player to win a Premiership. Time and time again, history will demonstrate that factors like team selection, balance and tactics, not to mention being at the right Club at the right time, have made some players "greats", whilst true legends like Bobby Skilton fail to ever hold a Premiership Cup aloft. Indeed, Season 2008 was a great case in point, with 7 game Hawk Brent Renouf winning a flag in the same year that Robert Harvey retired without one, despite almost 20 years at senior level. But what is the record - and has anyone ever won a Premiership on debut? With these questions in mind, we set out to tell the story of Carlton players to have reached the pinnacle of football before they’d barely walked a step at senior level.

No Carlton player has won a Premiership on debut. However, six Carlton players have participated in a Premiership within their first 10 games at senior level. These Blues managed to join in the celebrations of one of Carlton’s 16 Premierships in the virtual first breath of their potential careers. The details of these 6 are provided below:

PlayerYearOpponentGame No. in PremiershipAge
Jimmy Morris1914South Melbourne523 yrs, 72 days
Les Beck1906Fitzroy620 yrs, 260 days
Ike Little1906Fitzroy818 yrs, 246 days
Alby Ingleman1907South Melbourne821 yrs, 134 days
Neil Chandler1968Essendon919 yrs, 145 days
Herb Burleigh1914South Melbourne1022 yrs, 103 days

Carlton’s quickest Premiership Player by games played was dual Premiership Player and 26 gamer Jimmy Morris, who participated in our 1914 Grand Final victory over South Melbourne in just his 5th game. Morris was followed by Les Beck in 1906, Ike Little again in 1906, but in his last game for Carlton (and the league), Alby Ingleman in 1907, and finally by Neil Chandler in the first of his 3 Carlton Premierships out of 76 games ( 1968, 1970 and 1972 ).

Incidentally, Chandler also played in the 1973 Grand Final as 19th man, and found himself on the ground earlier than expected after Nicholls, Kevin Hall and Geoff Southby were all flattened. Neil’s fourth and last Grand Final appearance was neither a happy one for himself or his club.

Joining the list of Carlton success stories after these initial 6 are some interesting names; Paul Schmidt was part of the 1938 Premiership in just his 11th game of senior football, before going on to win our Leading Goalkicker on three occasions; Glenn Manton in his 12th game for Carlton (but 33rd overall) was part of our 1995 Premiership defensive unit, and Ross Ditchburn was a key player in our 1982 Premiership in only his 13th match.

Grand Final failure has hurt us all in the past, and a handful of Blues have come close to breaking Morris’s record but for the Blues being behind as the final siren sounded. That’s right, some Blues were representing the Carlton Football Club in a Grand Final before even their 5th match of football:

PlayerYearOpponentGame No. in Grand Final Age
Billy Payne1904Fitzroy322 yrs, 266 days
Archie Wilson1910Collingwood322 yrs, 158 days
Vin Catoggio1973Richmond319 yrs, 139 days
Tom McCluskey1910Collingwood420 yrs, 31 days
Harry Greaves1916Fitzroy425 yrs, 109 days

In addition, Frank Bateman for the 1949 Grand Final and Craig Davis for the 1963 Grand Final could have equaled Jimmy Morris’s record had they and their teams been successful in their respective matches.

Other notable early-Blues are Tim Powell in his 9th game for Carlton in our 1993 Grand Final loss (73rd overall), Phil Pinnell in his 12th game overall in our 1969 loss, and the tragedy of Peter Motley who played his 13th game for Carlton on the day we lost to Hawthorn in the 1986 Grand Final. Of course, tragedy would intervene and prevent Motley from avenging this loss on the field the following year unlike fellow South Australian Blues Kernahan and Bradley.

Overall, our youngest ever Premiership player was Brent Crosswell who played in the 1968 Flag at just 18 years and 51 days of age. He was 18 days younger than Robert Walls.

In order to complete the story from a competition perspective, the actual record - and the only Premiership on Player on debut - goes to Richmond's William James who played his only senior game in the Tigers’ 1920 Premiership (and he even scored a goal). James was from Kyabram and had also played in Kyabram's premiership the week before, but was accidentally shot in a foot – apparently by a mate - during a pig shooting trip a few months later and never played again.

Articles: The Longest Roads to Glory!