Brian Kekovich

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Brian Kekovich
Personal information
Date of birth (1946-01-07) 7 January 1946 (age 71)
Original team(s) Mytleford Football Club
Debut Round 1, 1967, Carlton
vs. Fitzroy, at Princes Park
Height / weight 187 cm, 86 kg
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1967–1968 Carlton 34 (97)
1 Playing statistics correct to the end of 1968.
Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com

Brian Kekovich (born 7 January 1946) is a former Australian rules footballer in the VFL/AFL, who played for two seasons with the Carlton Football Club.

A strong, dominant, talented, and courageous player, who was able to play hard and well through extreme pain, and always alert to the position of his team-mates, his otherwise long and productive VFL career was brought to a sudden end when he was forced to retire after suffering a severe back injury.

The Kekovich brothers[edit]

Brian is the older brother of former North Melbourne and Collingwood player Sam Kekovich.

His youngest brother, Michael, recruited from Trinity Grammar, who was showing great promise at North Melbourne at the age of 16,[1][2][3] played for the North Melbourne First XVIII on Thursday, 10 September 1970 against Footscray, in the first round of the 1970 VFL night premiership.[4] North Melbourne lost 6.7 (43) to 14.13 (97).

Michael also played in the North Melbourne Second XVIII team that lost the 1970 preliminary final to Melbourne,[5] and he kicked one goal in a losing team.

Michael was killed, aged 17, when he was hit by a motor-car whilst on a training run in High Street Doncaster (near Curnola Avenue) on Saturday evening 26 June 1971.[6][7]

Carlton[edit]

Recruited from Myrtleford Football Club in the Ovens & Murray Football League, Kekovich was originally signed with Richmond. He was signed up to play with Carlton immediately Richmond's hold on him had lapsed.[8] In his first Carlton pre-season practice match for 1967 he played at full-forward against Wes Lofts.[9] The Melbourne newspapers were calling him "Carlton's second top recruit" for 1967 (i.e., second to Alex Jesaulenko).[10]

A very strong and reliable mark, and a long and accurate left-foot kick, Kekovich made his debut (as did Alex Jesaulenko) for Carlton in Round 1, 1967.

Battle for Clearance[edit]

When Carlton applied for a clearance for Kekovich in March 1967,[11] Myrtleford refused to clear him, but granted him six match permits. Despite his second request for a clearance, Myrtleford demanded that he return to Myrtleford immediately he had played the six matches.[12][13] Kekovich threatened to remain in Melbourne, and stay out of football altogether if Myrtleford did not clear him.[14] He was cleared at the last moment by Myrtleford,[15][16] just in time for him to play in round seven (and, therefore, not miss a match).

Career[edit]

He played 34 senior games for Carlton (17 games in 1967, and 17 in 1968).

He was a fine team player, who always played a strong and reliable team game. He was an excellent mark, and he had no hesitation passing the ball to a team-mate who was in a better position.

In one of the club's 1968 pre-season practice matches, Kekovich, playing at full-forward, had been held to only two goals by Ron Stone up to three-quarter time; in the last quarter Kekovich dominated and scored another five goals to make his total seven goals for the match.[17]

In 1968, Carlton won every match in which Kekovich took the field, and lost each of the five matches he missed: round 2 (full-forward Peter Smith, 3 goals), round 3 (full-forward Peter Smith, 1 goal), round 14 (full-forward Peter Smith, 0 goals), round 15 (full-forward Alex Jesaulenko, 3 goals), and round 16 (full-forward Bill Bennett, 2 goals).

He kicked a total of 95 career goals; he kicked 6 goals in a match twice, 5 goals four times, and 4 goals six times. He was Carlton's leading goal-kicker in 1967 and 1968, kicking 36 goals and 59 goals respectively.

Last senior match[edit]

He received four Brownlow Medal votes during the 1968 season; and he was a very significant contributor to Carlton's three point 1968 Grand Final victory over Essendon: 7.14 (56) to 8.5 (53).

He played at full forward. In extremely blustery conditions, and in a torrid match, he scored four of his team's seven goals.[18] At one point, as he was going for a mark, he was "lined up" at the same moment by two of Essendon's toughest defenders, Alex Epis (who was playing his last VFL game, and had been instructed by the Essendon coach John Coleman to "belt" Kekovich) and Neil Evans. Neither Epis nor Evans knew that his team-mate was running at Kekovich and, as Kekovich noticed both approaching, he used all of his evasive skills to get out of their road. Evans smashed into Epis and knocked him out; and Kekovich remained unscathed.[19]

Kekovich's four goals were scored before half-time, and it seemed that he was carrying an injury for the second half of the match. He was one of Carlton's best players, and he had made a very strong contribution to their win.[20]

Des Tuddenham, reporting for The Age, wrote: "I saw one of Brian Kekovich's kicks for goal, aimed at the left hand post, swing over to the other behind post and then come back and go through for a goal, so the wind was certainly unpredictable".[21]

Back Injury[edit]

Unable to play in Carlton's match in Adelaide, on the Saturday following the VFL Grand Final, against the 1968 SAFL Premiers, Sturt Football Club,[22] he sought treatment for a severe back injury, and was advised to retire from the game immediately, or risk becoming permanently paralysed.

He had kept the severity and nature of his back ailment to himself, and the Carlton officials were not aware that the courageous and highly motivated Kekovich was secretly receiving extensive treatment, including acupuncture, each week, at his own expense.

In 1969 he finally revealed that he had been badly injured when he had been kicked on the top of his right hip during a match against Fitzroy in 1968.[23]

Carlton Reserves[edit]

Still hoping that he could return to playing senior football with Carlton, he rested, received treatment, and began training as soon as he was able to do so.[24]

He played his first game for the 1969 season, with Carlton Reserves, against Essendon on 31 May 1969 (round 9). He “showed outstanding form” and kicked four goals in the match; and "he reported no ill-effects from the back injury … which he had suffered towards the end of last season". Carlton were hoping that he would soon be restored to the senior team, because, in his absence, "the Carlton selectors [were] known to be unwilling to waste the brilliance of Alex Jesaulenko at full-forward".[25]

He played on 16 June (round 10) against North Melbourne, once again he scored four goals.[26] He played against Fitzroy on 21 June (round 11), scoring one goal.[27]

On Thursday, 26 June 1969, Kekovich applied for a clearance from Carlton to North Melbourne, on the grounds that he wanted to play with his brother Sam. He "trained lightly" on that Thursday evening, and "did not speak to the match committee about a clearance".

Carlton refused his request on the basis that, if he was indeed fit to play senior VFL football, Carlton needed him in their team. The match committee that had considered his request, had also sought the advice of the club doctor about the nature of his back injury. The club doctor "told them that at no time this season had Kekovich been fully fit".

On these grounds, the Carlton selectors did not consider him for the weekend's Reserves Grade match, and said that "[Kekovich] would no be considered until the doctor had given him a fitness clearance".

Carlton then waited to be fully informed in relation to the true extent of Kekovich's injury, his fitness levels, and their estimation of the likelihood of such an outstanding, talented footballer ever being able to return to top level VFL football once again and, hopefully, play a dominant part in Carlton's on-going future.[28]

He did not play again for the Carlton Reserve grade team in 1969.

North Melbourne[edit]

In 1970, the courageous Kekovich (still only 24) sought, and was granted a clearance from Carlton to North Melbourne.

In February 1970, the Carlton secretary, Bert Deacon, apparently now in possession of the medical report from the Carlton doctor, announced that Kekovich, who had been training quite intensely in the preceding few months had been cleared, on "compassionate grounds", to North Melbourne, so that he could be with his two brothers.[29]

Once he had transferred to North Melbourne he seemed to be training well and to be in good shape. In a March pre-season training match against Wangaratta Rovers, playing at full-forward, "Kekovich led well and kicked accurately, finishing with eight goals".[30]

However, by the time that the 1970 home-and-away season started, his back injuries were limiting his capacity to train; and, having bravely played four Second XVIII games for North Melbourne, he was dropped from the North Melbourne training list in May 1970.[31]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Kekovich . . . The Third, The Age, (Friday, 21 August 1971, p.25.
  2. ^ VFL Reserves: North Melbourne, The Age, (Friday, 21 August 1971), p.25.
  3. ^ Assumption's good win, The Age, (Monday, 21 June 1971), p.20.
  4. ^ Robb, J., “Youngest Kekovich eligible – League”, (Thursday, 10 September 1970), p.26.
  5. ^ Reserve Grade, ‘’The Age’’, (Friday, 18 September 1970), p.28.
  6. ^ VFL Hope Killed as He Trains, The Age, (Monday, 28 June 1971), p.1.
  7. ^ Carter, R., "Rising Star is Killed", The Age, (Monday, 28 June 1971), p.26.
  8. ^ Hobbs, G., "Kick to Kick", The Age, (Tuesday, 2 May 1967), p.22.
  9. ^ Beames, P., "Collis hits form in Blues' first trial", The Age, (Monday, 13 March 1967), p.17.
  10. ^ Beames, P., "Blues get all-clear on leading recruit", The Age, (Wednesday, 29 March 1967), p.18.
  11. ^ Hobbs, G., "Richmond Cagey Over Successor to Neville Crowe", The Age, (Friday, 31 March 1967), p.24.
  12. ^ Carter, R., "Kekovich Fails in New Clearance Bid", The Age, (Tuesday, 30 May 1967), p.24.
  13. ^ Beames, P., "Blues Blocked on Kekovich",The Age, (Monday, 5 June 1967), p.20.
  14. ^ Beames, P., "Kekovich to Stay in Melbourne: Will Appeal if Clearance Denied", The Age, (Wednesday, 7 June 1967), p.22.
  15. ^ Hobbs, G., "Kekovich Cleared: No Cash Claim", The Age, (Thursday, 8 June 1967, p.22.
  16. ^ Blues Help North, The Age, (Thursday, 7 March 1968), p.26.
  17. ^ Blue Kicks Seven, The Age, (Monday, 1 April 1968), p.22.
  18. ^ See: Highlights of the 1968 VFL Grand Final on YouTube
  19. ^ Dramatic end to scrappy contest, Herald-Sun, (Monday, 23 September 2008).
  20. ^ Beames, P. "Carlton's $50,000 VFL Premiership: Four Years' Work Ends in Triumph", The Age, (Monday, 30 September 1968), p.26. (Brian Kekovich is on the extreme right of the photograph.)
  21. ^ Tuddenham, D., "No Classic, But What a Finish!", The Age, (Monday, 30 September 1968), p.25.
  22. ^ Hobbs, G., "Carlton's crocks find easy money", The Age, (Monday, 7 October 1968), p.26.
  23. ^ Injury Plagues Carlton Star, The Age, (Thursday, 27 February 1969), p.28.
  24. ^ Do-or-Die for Kekovich, The Age, (Thursday, 15 May 1969), p.26.
  25. ^ McFarline, P., "Kekovich Back", The Age, (Tuesday, 3 June 1967), p.28.
  26. ^ Vfl Statistics: Reserve Grade, The Age, Tuesday, 17 June 1969), p.24.
  27. ^ VFL Statistics, The Age, (Monday, 23 June 1969, p.32
  28. ^ Kekovich Turned Down by Blues, The Age, (Friday, 27 June 1969), p.22.
  29. ^ Carter, R., "Carlton Clears Kekovich to Kangaroos", (Thursday, 26 February 1970), p.26.
  30. ^ North's new trio in form, The Age, (Monday, 9 March 1970), p.17.
  31. ^ Robb, J., "Sam Out, Brian Too", The Age, (Thursday, 28 May 1970), p.28.

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