Could there be anyone more eminently qualified to cast judgment on next year’s Carlton-St Kilda Anzac Day Centenary Match in Wellington than Warren “Wow” Jones?
A representative of both clubs as a player in 123 matches through 11 seasons from 1978, Jones, by his own admission, declared “I can’t lose” on learning that the match between his old teams was fixtured for the place just south of Palmerston North, where he was born in ’53 and spent the first three years of his life.
“But I am a Blueblood,” declared the former Carlton ruckman, who together with Mike Fitzpatrick was crucial to the outcome of the 1982 Grand Final victory in negating Richmond’s Mark Lee.
These days domiciled on Manly Beach and employed in the Sydney CBD as Regional Manager at BT Financial Group (he catches the ferry to and from work), Jones has more than a passing interest in football matters New Zealand.
As he said: “I have been involved in the development of the game over there”.
“Last year I was involved with AFL New Zealand,” Jones said.
“There was a group of us – Wayne Schwass, Simon Black, whose folks were born in New Zealand, and myself. We basically picked a heritage team comprising current AFL players who were either born in New Zealand or whose parents were, and it was a pretty good team too.”
Jones, who attended last year’s match between St Kilda and Brisbane in Wellington, harbors a great hope of returning to see Carlton and St Kilda meet in Round 4, on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landing.
And in terms of the New Zealand push, Jones was in no doubt.
“I think it’s a good thing because we need to open up the markets. NZ is the logical choice and I wouldn’t mind betting that within the next 15 years a New Zealand team is part of the AFL,” he said.
“New Zealand football now is where Sydney was at in 1982. There’s football talent between the ages of 16 and 18 and the talent pool is increasing, particularly in Wellington.”
Jones is used to mixing with dignitaries. He was famously photographed basking in the afterglow of Grand Final glory with the then Australian Prime Minister and No.1 Carlton ticketholder Malcolm Fraser, and he would surely fit the bill as the Blues’ Ambassador to the south-western tip of New Zealand’s North Island.