23 March 2021

Eastlake Football Club to induct former players, coaches and administrators to inaugural Hall of Fame

| Tim Gavel
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Alex Jesaulenko in Eastlake playing uniform.

A young Alex Jesaulenko wearing Eastlake Football Club colours. Photo: Supplied by Keith Miller, Eastlake Football Club.

Alex Jesaulenko, who is regarded as one of Australian rules football’s greatest ever players, started his career as an Eastlake Football Club junior.

As an 18-year-old, Jesaulenko demonstrated a natural gift as a player. He had the rare distinction of playing in both the under-19/colts and senior Eastlake premiership winning teams on consecutive days in 1964.

Two other Eastlake players, Arthur McDonald and Arthur McGuffin, joined Jesaulenko as club greats.

He went on to win another two senior premierships, and claimed Eastlake’s best-and-fairest award in 1966 before heading to Carlton in the VFL where he became a premiership player in 1968, 1970 and 1972. He also captain-coached the Blues to the VFL flag in 1979.

Alex Jesaulenko taking a big mark in 1970 VFL grand final.

Alex Jesaulenko’s famous mark for Carlton against Collingwood in the 1970 VFL grand final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Photo: Clive MacKinnon/Newspix.

To this day, Jesaulenko credits the winning culture instilled at Eastlake for his success in the VFL.

One of his main influences at Eastlake was legendary coach – and VFL premiership winner with Footscray in 1954 – Roger Duffy, who led the club to six premierships. Three of these premierships included Jesaulenko as a key player.

Roger Duffy being chaired from football ground by teammates.

Roger Duffy originally played for Newtown, in Sydney, as a full forward. He then joined Footscray in the VFL before coaching at Eastlake. Photo: Supplied by Keith Miller, Eastlake Football Club.

Duffy’s decade-long coaching reign at Eastlake remains one of the greatest eras in the club’s history. He came to Canberra when he was aged in his late 20s after securing employment with the Department of Defence.

Duffy and Jesaulenko are two of the frontrunners to be inducted into Eastlake Football Club/Manuka’s inaugural Hall of Fame in July 2021.

Of the 13 inductees, two will be elevated to Legend status and one to Icon status.

Eastlake general manager Shaun Young says it has been a long-time goal of the club to appropriately recognise the achievements of former champions, dating back to the club’s formation in 1926.

“We have honour boards but this takes it to a new level,” he says.

The club has a rich history, which is amplified when the achievements of Manuka Football Club are taken into account. The two clubs became the one entity in 1991. As such, the Hall of Fame will recognise the achievements of the Manuka club.

Edney Blackaby, who joined Manuka in the late 1960s from Tasmania, is long regarded as the greatest player to never play in the VFL. He rejected numerous requests to head to Melbourne, instead preferring to stay in Canberra.

Edney Blackaby playing football in the 1960s.

Edney Blackaby is a legend of the former Manuka Football Club. Photo: Supplied by Keith Miller, Eastlake Football Club.

Other candidates for induction include Canberra women’s trailblazer Mel Backhouse.

Her incredible career with Eastlake included a club-record 150 games, six premierships, and a multitude of awards. Many young women have been inspired to play Australian rules football in Canberra because of her profile.

Mulrooney Medal winner Guy Cannon, captain-coached Eastlake to the premiership in 2001 and is another Hall of Fame induction candidate.

The late Ken MacDonald OAM dedicated five decades to Eastlake Football Club. His drive as an administrator is seen as one of the major factors behind the club’s success on and off the field.

Mel Backhouse playing football for Eastlake.

Inspirational player Mel Backhouse played 150 games for Eastlake. Photo: Supplied by Keith Miller, Eastlake Football Club.

As a long-time club president, MacDonald was instrumental in establishing a licensed club adjacent to Kingston Oval, before Eastlake moved to its current location in Griffith. The site is now occupied by ACT Table Tennis.

As expected from a club with such a prominent record of high achievements, the list of candidates to be inducted into the Hall of Fame is lengthy.

Legendary player and coach Keith Miller is on the subcommittee assessing the candidates. He says the plan was to stage the event in 2020 but it was postponed because of COVID-19.

The Hall of Fame inductees will be announced at a special function on 24 July.

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