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Harry Vallence – Retired Australian Rules Football Player

harry vallenceThe 19th position on the AFL all-time list for most career goals belongs, for this moment in 2015 at least, to Harry Vallence.

He is in the group that currently consists of nine former players who have scored 700 or more goals. It is quite a drop from current number one Tony Lockett’s 1360 to Vallence’s 722, but the most compelling aspect of the number is that he played his last game in 1938. It took until 1997, 59 years, before Stephen Kernahan would finish ahead of him to take the lead for scoring with Carlton with 738.

Most sports records do not hold up for that long. It is also worth noting that Kernahan played in 251 games to Vallence’s 204. Of course, when Vallence played, it was the Victorian Football League. Also noteworthy is that when Vallence left the Carlton Football Club at the age of 33, he went on to play on the Williamstown Seagulls of the VFA in 1939, 40, and 41. He then sat out the years 1941-45 due to World War II, but came back again in 1946 at the age of 41 for one last hurrah, including a match for Brighton against Preston where he booted 11 goals.

If those goals, along with the 19 he tallied playing Victorian representative games were calculated as part of his total, he would have been credited with 1166, which would currently be good for fourth position on the AFL scorers list.

It would certainly be possible to raise the issue of the strength of the competition against which he competed in his final seasons, but some allowance should be made for his returning from the layoff imposed by the war and playing beyond the age of 40.

For the sake of comparison, the era during which Vallence played was conducive to scoring. A contemporary of Vallence, Bill Mohr, kicked 735 goals in his career which was 9 games shorter, but Vallence played for by far the more successful team.

Carlton FC won 141 times when Vallence was on the ground, whereas Mohr’s St. Kilda squad could only muster 94 victories. Both men played 13 seasons in the VFL.

Vallence Early Years

Henry Francis Vallence was born 4 June 1905. He carried the nickname “Soapy” for his characteristic of being a slippery player when the ball hit the ground. Wet weather playing conditions made him even more elusive. Along with his obvious powerful kicking skills, he was a brilliant high mark. Vallence was proud to be known as Soapy.

Before he made his VFL debut with Carlton in 1926, he played in the Ballarat League on the Bacchus Marsh side.

Carlton Career

Harry Vallence made his debut with the Blues in 1926, just about a month short of his 21st birthday. He got on the ground 11 times, during which the Blues won eight times against four defeats. He kicked just 19 goals that year. The team’s overall record was 11 wins against seven losses, but losses to Essendon in round 17 and Colligwood in round 18 brought the Blues’ season to a close.

It was another 11 game campaign in 1927. Vallence kicked 25 goals this time out, going six wins to five losses in a season that saw Carlton posting a 13-0-6 record and managing to get into the first round of the finals, a losing effort against Richmond where Vallence contributed two goals.

1928 was not an especially great season for Vallence. The Blues did manage to get into the playoffs with an 11-0-8 record, but once again succumbed to Richmond in a match completely dominated by the Tigers. Vallence was limited to one goal.

Vallence Hits His Stride

1929 was the breakout year for Harry Vallence. He kicked 64 goals as the Blues had another good season. Once again, however, they were thwarted by the Tigers in the preliminary final, although this time around, the Blues lost by only six points, Vallence contributing two goals.

The highlight of the season for Vallence would have to have been the 11 goal showing against South Melbourne in round 15. Vallence’s total of 64 goals for the season was but two short of his entire output for his first three seasons.

1930 could only be described as one of frustration for Vallence. Carlton was 11-0-2 with him playing, again advancing to a semi-final, only to lose to Geelong. Interestingly, the Blues played only 13 games that season, and Vallence could only produce 18 goals.

The next three seasons were another matter. Vallence kicked 86 in 1931, 97 in 1932, and 84 in 1933. An 11-0-7 got the Blues into the playoffs, where they opened with a win over Collingwood, and then went down to Geelong in the preliminary. Vallence pulled another one of his 11 goal tricks out of his hat against Collingwood, more than double the output of the entire Magpie side.

The Blues made it to the Grand Final in 1932, partly on the strength of Vallence’s 97 goals, but the side went down to defeat to Richmond once again, despite Vallence’s five goals.

Carlton was again strong in 1933. Vallence contributed 84 goals that season that once again had the Blues in contention for the flag until a semi-final loss to Geelong extinguished that season.

Vallence experienced a bit of a decline in 1934, scoring only 35 goals. He was limited to one or two goals, including one shutout, in the final six games of the season.

Final VFL Seasons

Harry Valence concluded his final four seasons with Carlton with 302 goals, despite slipping to 39 in 1937, when there may have been some ill will generated when he was dropped to the seconds after returning from a Victorian representative game, despite having scored 86 in 1936.

He actually left for the Williamstown side, but was persuaded to come back for the 1938 season, where he kicked 81 goals and contributed to the Carlton Grand Final win over previous nemesis Collingwood.

Vallence concluded his VFL career with 722 goals, but far sweeter would have been capturing the ultimate prize in the VFL.

Post VFL Career

Vallence went on to play for Williamstown and Brighton, despite having to wait out the suspension that was necessitated by World War II. He continued to be productive, kicking another 425 goals and finally calling it a day at the age of 41. The most amazing aspect of his career would have to be his longevity. In a league that currently averages career lengths of under four year, Vallence not only played for 20, but was productive the entire time.

He led the Blues in goalkicking in 1929, 1931-1933, and 1935-1938, leading the entire league with 86 in 1931.

Harry Vallence died 25 July 1991. He was around to see himself enshrined in the Carlton Hall of Fame in 1987, but died before the launching of the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996.

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