The suburb of Carlton was the centre of early Lebanese settlement in Victoria, also famous for its Carlton AFL football club. An Australian of Lebanese heritage, George Ferry, was one of its Stars
The early Lebanese settlers in Sydney settled in Redfern, the home of the Rugby League team of South Sydney, now known as the NRL Rabbitohs. As a result, the Lebanese adopted Rugby League and Rugby Union as their preferred football games in New South Wales. Other “ethnic” groups tended to support Soccer. With the Australian Lebanese population of Sydney now centred on the Canterbury-Bankstown area, they have tended to adopt the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Rugby League team as their own. Hazim El-Masri is but one of the latest of a long line of illustrious Rugby League and Union players who have Lebanese ancestry.
A similar thing happened in Victoria, but the strength of Australian Football (AFL) and the Carlton team meant it was AFL that was popular among the Australian Lebanese in Victoria and they also produced skilled, first rate players. One of those was George Ferry. The Society has in its collection a 1950s football collectors’ card featuring George Ferry. The card is no. 108 from a series called Atlantic Picture Pageant produced by a now defunct petrol company called “Atlantic”. The card says of Ferry: Among the most reliable full-backs in the League, George never spares an opponent. Joined the Blues in 1952, coming up through Carlton Thirds. Has played 72 games and kicked 7 goals. His determination and come-through style of play have proved upsetting to all full forwards. George is 26, 5ft 11in., and scales in at 12 stone 10 lb.
The Carlton Football Club website gives more details about Ferry. He played 139 games for Carlton from 1952 to 1961, scoring 7 goals. He was born 8 August 1932, and was 179 cm tall and weighed 81 kilograms. According to his biography on the website: George Ferry was an outstanding clubman, and a popular full-back for the Blues during one of the bleakest periods in Carlton‟s history. Despite his relative lack of height, he was durable, courageous and committed in every game he played. These qualities brought George a reputation as one of the finest full-backs of his generation. After arriving at Carlton from St Patrick’s, East Melbourne in 1949, Ferry served his football apprenticeship with the Under 19 (member of the 1948 and 1949 premiership teams) and Reserves (member of the 1951 premiership team) teams before he was called into the Blues’ senior side in 1952.
Carlton made the finals in fourth place that year, but lost to Fitzroy by one point in the first semi-final. That was a portent of what was to come for both George and his team. In the following decade, Carlton played in just three more finals matches – and lost each of them. Yet throughout these tough times, Ferry stubbornly refused to drop his head. He developed a great understanding with champion back pocket Bruce “Bugsy” Comben, and the pair’s strategies at kick-ins often saw one of them mark unattended. The Carlton website continues: They got away with it for years, too, until Melbourne’s Norm Smith eventually worked out how to match them up. Ferry wore his navy blue guernsey number 25 on 139 occasions from 1952 to 1961, and was whole-hearted in every one of them. Blues supporters respected his resolute efforts week after week, and gave generously when Carlton honoured him with a testimonial year in 1962.
Afterward, George became a long-serving and popular Melbourne radio football commentator and a familiar face at Carlton club functions for many years. He passed away, aged 73, on February 6, 2005.
Carlton Football Club website: http://www.blueseum.org/tiki-index.php?page=George+Ferry
Atlantic Picture Pageant [football card] No. 108, c1958.