26 October 1926
22 December 2017 (aged 91)
Age at first & last AFL game
First game: 18y 205d
Last game: 30y 309d
Height and weight
Height: 185 cm
Weight: 85 kg
Pre 1965 stats are for selected matches only
A complete footballer, Ken Hands was pinched by Carlton from right under the noses of his local club, Geelong. If that was controversial, it was nothing compared to what was to come. Hands' debut season with Carlton was 1945, which as every football fan worth his or her salt knows was the year of the infamous 'Bloodbath' Grand Final, in which the Blues defeated South Melbourne. Play was spiteful and willing all day, but the event which precipitated the ugliest and most sustained melee of the afternoon was Ken Hands getting unceremoniously poleaxed while the ball was being ferried back to the centre of the ground after a Carlton goal. The all in brawl which ensued while the comatose Hands was being helped from the ground only ended after the half-time siren.
Hands later returned to the fray and booted three goals in a display of rare but by no means uncharacteristic courage. Over the next dozen seasons he acquired a reputation as one of the game's toughest, most courageous, and most accomplished footballers. Skilful on the ground and strong overhead, he was one of the most elegant drop kicks in the game. Whether playing at centre half forward or leading the ruck he was almost invariably effective, and always inspirational. He captained the Blues from 1952 to 1957, but they had declined as a power by this time, and never finished higher than fourth. On the interstate front, however, Hands enjoyed considerable success; he made a total of a dozene Big V appearances, and served as state captain-coach in eight matches in 1954 and 1957. Those matches were Hands' first coaching experience, with the 'Big V' triumphant in all eight. Hands' selection as first ruckman in the 1953 and 1954 'Sporting Life' Teams of the Year further served to emphasise his high standing in the game. His Carlton career comprised 211 VFL games in which he kicked 188 goals with among the many highlights being a club best and fairest win in 1953.
In 1959, two years after retiring as a player, Hands returned to Carlton as coach, with the Blues victorious in his first eight games at the helm, and falling just seven points short of reaching that season's Grand Final. He steered the Blues to a losing Grand Final against Essendon in 1962, but two years later he opted to step down after overseeing the worst season in the club's history up to that point. For his playing prowess, however, he warrants a high place in Carlton's all time 'hall of fame', a fact that was confirmed when he was selected in a forward pocket (and presumably change ruckman) in the club's official 'Team of the Century', he having earlier been inducted into Carlton's official Hall of Fame in 1988.
Author - John Devaney
australianfootball.com is indebted to John Hands for providing expanded information on the coaching career of Ken Hands.