For months in 2013, former Sydney CEO Andrew Ireland sat on one of the biggest stories in football history. It was the coup of all coups …. Lance Franklin was to join the Swans.
Seven years on, retired from his full-time role but still serving on the Sydney Swans Board, Ireland rates just as highly a recruit he’d signed four years earlier without any fuss or fare, albeit in a different sense.
A club media release on September 3, 2009 unveiled the prize signing of ex-captain and 200-gamer Dennis Carroll, who had not long before moved on from a part-time role as Chairman of Selectors. He would become the club’s full-time Welfare and Player Development Manager.
Ireland, never one for sweeping statements or brash exaggerations, said he was ‘ecstatic’ that Carroll, with his vast football and commercial experience, his impeccable character and his passion for the club, had agreed to return in a ‘critically important role’.
One of football’s most experienced and admired administrators, with a multitude of major achievements as a grand final player at Collingwood and a premiership CEO with the Sydney Swans and the Brisbane Lions, Ireland had made it a personal mission to snare the club favourite from his then role as Dealer Principal at City Ford, the biggest Ford dealership in the country.
"It wasn’t an easy decision given I was 20 years at City Ford, but after a considerable amount of thought and knowing the Swans is where my true passion lies, I decided this role is for me and I genuinely believe I can make a difference,” Carroll said at time.
Never has a truer word been spoken.
In Carroll’s first season back at the SCG, the first-time Swans player list included Josh Kennedy, Sam Reid, Ben McGlynn, Lewis Jetta, Shane Mumford, Mark Seaby, Gary Rohan, Daniel Bradshaw, Campbell Heath and Trent Dennis-Lane.
Since then a further 68 players have joined the all-time player list, with just as many young draftees who didn’t get the chance to play at senior level.
Carroll was a key part of the club’s welcoming committee for all recruits, ensuring that each newcomer was given the very best of support and guidance off the field so that they could maximise their on-field performance.
Having finally called time on his almost parental role, which stretched in every direction possible, Carroll admits he has ‘thousands’ of memorable stories that Swans fans would cherish in a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of an AFL club.
He could write a book on his trials and tribulations - except he never will. Because, even for things totally harmless, to do so would be to break a trust that was the very backbone of his role at the club. That’s not ‘DC’.
When Dennis Carroll ended his most recent chapter with the Sydney Swans at the end of 2020, Executive GM - Football Charlie Gardiner summed up the sentiment felt by many at the club:
"Dennis is widely admired and respected for his work in the industry in the area of player welfare and has been involved in the development and improvement of AFL processes and structures to support players across the competition.
"DC has been a mentor, friend and confidant to staff, players and families alike, and will be missed by all."
DENNIS CARROLL: FIRSTS AND LASTS
Having played in the last AFL game at Lake Oval and the first post-relocation game at the SCG, Dennis Carroll was involved in a string of firsts and lasts for the Sydney Swans.
Round 8, 1984: Last Swans game at Arden Street
The Swans played North Melbourne at Arden Street from when North joined the competition in 1925. They had a 24-28 win/loss record at the ground, where Bob Pratt kicked a club best 10 goals in 1933, and, after the introduction of possession counts in 1965, Bob Skilton had a club best 35 possessions in 1967 and ’68.
On May 19, 1984 South played their last game at Arden Street in Round 8 in what was the fifth-last game at the ground overall, winning 19.20 (134) to 18.19 (127) despite being out-scored by 38 points in the second half. Carroll had 23 possessions as Mark Browning, with 29 possessions and an equal career-best five goals, was best afield. A 20-year-old Warwick Capper kicked two goals in his third game.
Round 15, 1984: Last Swans game at Junction Oval
Junction Oval at St Kilda in Melbourne, now the home of Victorian Cricket, was South Melbourne’s temporary home ground from 1944-46 while nearby Lake Oval was occupied by the army. The Swans played 29 home games at Junction Oval during this period for a 20-9 record.
It was also the home ground of St Kilda from 1897-1964, excluding war periods in 1916-17 and 1943-43, and Fitzroy from 1970-84. And it hosted three VFL grand finals in 1898-99 and 1944, with South losing the premiership decider to Fitzroy there in 1899.
Overall, the Swans played 104 games at Junction Oval for a 62-1-41 record, with Larry Spokes’ nine goals against St Kilda in 1949 the club best.
It was a standout individual performance from Spokes, who played 61 games for the club from 1946-50. He had kicked only 18 goals in 44 games prior, never more than three, and hadn’t hit the scoreboard in the first 10 games of the season, yet out of nothing he reached a mark bettered by only eight players in club history.
On July 7, 1984 Sydney played their last game and the fourth last game overall at Junction Oval, beating Fitzroy by 28 points.
South Australian football great and AFL Hall of Famer Bob Hammond coached the club for the first of eight times, closing out the unsettling three weeks in which Ricky Quade had stepped down as coach following Round 13 and Tony Franklin deputised in Round 14, when Carroll missed through injury.
Sydney won 14.12 (96) to 9.14 (68) after ruckman Steven Taubert, later to have a long coaching association with the club, had 21 possessions and 27 hit-outs to earn three Brownlow Medal votes in a year in which he polled 15 votes to finish fourth overall.
Mark Browning (25 possessions) and Craig Holden (21) also figured in the votes as Carroll had 21 possessions and kicked a goal.
Round 3, 1987: First Swans game at Subiaco
With the West Coast Eagles and the Brisbane Bears having joined the competition, and the Swans travelled to Western Australia to play their 1685th game overall and their first game at Subiaco Oval.
On 12 April, with Tom Hafey in charge, they won 18.16 (124) to 14.13 (97). The prolific trio of Greg Williams, Gerard Healy and Barry Mitchell picked up a combined 97 possessions as Warwick Capper kicked five goals. Carroll had 20 possessions.
Subiaco would go on to host the Swans 34 times and give up just 12 wins over West Coast and later Fremantle before it was shut down in 2017.
Josh Kennedy’s 45 possessions against Fremantle in 2016 was a Swans best and equal-second best on the ground overall, while Tony Lockett’s six goals in 1988 topped the Swans’ Subiaco goal-kicking feats.
Round 11, 1987: First Swans game at Carrara
Eight weeks after their historic trip west the Swans headed north for the first time to play the Bears.
It was June 7, with the in-form Swans handing the battling competition newcomers a 73-point hiding in their first outing at what was then Carrara Stadium, now Metricon Stadium and the redeveloped home of the Gold Coast Suns.
Gerard Healy was best afield with 25 possessions and four goals, while Tony Morwood earned two Brownlow votes with 21 possessions and four goals and Carroll had a team-high 29 possessions.
Dan Hannebery holds the record for most possessions for the Swans in a game at Carrara with 42 in 2015, while the club goal-kicking best of four goals is shared between Healy and Warwick Capper in 1987, Lewis Roberts-Thomson in 2012 and Harry Cunningham in 2014.
Round 18, 1991: First Swans game at Football Park
With the AFL moving into South Australia in 1991, the Swans played their first game at Football Park against the Adelaide Crows.
It was the seventh game overall at the venue on 21 July, with the Swans, coached by Col Kinnear, coming from 21 points down at halftime time to win 19.8 (122) to 16.22 (118). And again Carroll was a key factor with 24 possessions and a goal in his 199th game to earn three Brownlow votes.
Brad Tunbridge earned two votes for 18 possessions and 31 hit-outs but unlikely five-goal hero Jason Love and Barry Mitchell, who amassed a career-best 46 possessions to go with two goals, went unrecognised by the umpires.
Mitchell’s haul saw him go into the record books as the equal ground record-holder with Geelong’s Gary Ablett Jr when Football Park was shut at the end of 2013, while Simon Minton-Connell’s eight goals against Adelaide in 1992 was the Swans’ best at the ground.
Round 20, 1991: Last Swans game at Windy Hill
Two weeks later the Swans went from the new to the old when they made their 59th and last visit to Essendon’s long-term home at Windy Hill. It was the 628th and second-last game at the ground overall on Saturday, August 3.
The Bombers, based at Windy Hill from 1922 and later to make their training and administration base there until 2013, won by 67 points despite 19 possessions and three goals from Craig Nettlebeck and Carroll’s 21 possessions in his 201st game.
It was a ground where the Swans had a poor record, going 13-46 overall. Bob Pratt’s 11 goals there in 1934 was the club’s biggest goal haul, while in 1980, when the Swans won by four points, Ricky Quade had a career-best and club record 38 possessions while Peter Morrison picked up a career-best 36 possessions.
They were all special moments in Swans history and part of the Carroll legacy, but nothing quite like the 2012 Swans premiership. Having watched the breakthrough 2005 flag as a fan it was the crowning glory for a life member who has given so much of his life to the club.