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Jezza the great – Matt Posaner

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For many Carlton supports, the greatest player, bar non, in recent memory is Alex Jesaulenko. He represented all that was mercurial and brilliant in football; he was a player people came to watch because the unbelievable on a regular basis, and the unexpected 10 times a game.

Like Mozart, the greatest composer of all time, Alex Jesaulenko was born of Ukrainian parents in the Austrian city of Salzburg. He came to Australia as a young boy and grew up in Canberra.

There are a couple of persistent rumours about the young Jesaulenko, which lend an aura to his particular genius.

The first is that the baby Jezza spent some time with his family in a refugee camp in or near Carlton in the late 1940’s – Camp Pell, or a camp in the Exhibition Gardens. The second is that he did notevan pick up an Australian football until the ripe old age of 15. And the last one is that the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies, personally interviewed to have the Manuka-Eastlakes star and Commenwealth public servant transferred to Melbourne in time for the 1967 season.

The rest of his story is truthful, and needs no embellishment – the soaring marks, such as the mark of the century in the 1970 grand final, the hundred goals in a season, the ability to command the ball to do his will, the way his body worked its way untouched through marauding packs, as if he could disappear under ground and worm his way up in a clear space.

Not to mention the way he could bring the rest of the team into the play by direct involvement, or sheer example. When called upon to coach Carlton in 1978, he was being shirt-fronted by Collingwood’s Stan Magro that inspired a win that season, and eventually the Flag in 1979. He left in loyalty to controversial President George Harris but was still blue through and through. When called upon in another crisis after the sacking of Robert Walls in 1989, he came and the magic worked again.

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