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Alex 'Jezza' Jesaulenko MBE (born 2 August 1945 in Salzburgmarker, Austriamarker) is a former Australian rules footballer and coach. He is regarded as one of the game's greatest-ever players and is an official Legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He immortalized his reputation in the game by taking the Mark of the Century in the 1970 VFL Grand Final. In 2009 The Australian nominated Jesaulenko as one of the 25 greatest footballers never to win a Brownlow medal.

Early life

Alexander Jesaulenko ( ) was born in Salzburgmarker, Austriamarker to a Ukrainian father and Russian mother. The family emigrated to Canberra, Australiamarker in 1949 from Ukrainemarker. The family name was originally spelled Esaulenko, but on arrival in Australia a 'J' was mistakenly added to the name by immigration officials. Initially the young Jesaulenko played soccer and rugby union at St Edmund's College and did not start playing Australian Rules Football until he was fourteen years old. He began playing at the Eastlake Football Club in Canberra.

Carlton career

Jesaulenko made his senior VFL debut in 1967, after interest from other clubs, such as North Melbourne, whom he later revealed had selected him in their senior side, but when the letter was posted through the slot in his door, it went under the carpet and wasn't opened for another two or so years. Alex went on to play 256 senior games for the Carlton Football Club. In total he kicked 424 goals and won 4 premierships with the club 1968, 1970, 1972 and 1979. Jesaulenko was selected for All-Australian honours in 1969 and 1972. He has the dubious record at Carlton for the most inaccurate score of 5 goals and 12 behinds, against Hawthorn in 1969.

A spectacular and popular player Jesaulenko was renowned for his high marking, mercurial ground play, superb balance and goal kicking. In 1970 he kicked 115 goals in the season (making him the only Carlton player so far to kick 100 goals or more in a season) and went on to play in the famous 1970 VFL Grand Final against Collingwood. In front of an all-time record MCGmarker crowd of 121,696 fans Carlton came from a 44-point deficit at half-time to win by 10 points.

In 1979 Jesaulenko was the playing coach of Carlton's premiership team, perhaps his finest moment in football. "Jezza" was in fact the last playing coach in the VFL to win a premiership.

Jesaulenko had pay disputes with Carlton in 1977. Subsequently he tied his ongoing presence at the club to then Carlton club president George Harris. At the end of the 1979 season Harris was ousted from his position and Jesaulenko cut all ties with Carlton.

St Kilda Football Club

In a deal managed by trucking millionaire and St Kilda club president, Lindsay Fox, Jesaulenko moved to the St Kilda Football Club in 1980. While initially appointed as an on-field player only Jesaulenko was then appointed playing coach when the incumbent St Kilda coach, Mike Patterson, was sacked by Fox after Round 2. He played 23 games and kicked 20 goals for the Saints in 1980-1981 and stayed on for a further season as coach.

Return to Carlton

In the first half of the 1989 season, Carlton was in disarray and after a three-point loss to the lowly Brisbane Bears, their eighth in ten games, the board finally lost patience and sacked Robert Walls. Jesaulenko was appointed caretaker coach for the remainder of the season, eventually leading the Blues to a respectable 8th-placed finish. He stayed on until the end of the 1990 season, when he was replaced by David Parkin.

"Oh Jesaulenko, you beauty!"

Jesaulenko's marking skill was perhaps best highlighted by a spectacular mark over big Collingwood ruckman Graeme Jenkin in the legendary 1970 VFL Grand Final. The famous commentary has Mike Williamson shouting "Oh Jesaulenko, you beauty!". This "specky" is acclaimed by some to be the "Mark of the Century" and was the first to be recognised officially as the Mark of the Year; the medal awarded to the annual winner is called the Alex Jesaulenko Medal.

Post football

Jesaulenko was an inaugural inductee into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 1996, and in 2008 became the twenty-second man elevated to Legend status. He works today with VISY Recycling in Melbournemarker.

In 2006, Jesaulenko was featured in a Toyota Memorable Moments commercial with Stephen Curry and Dave Lawson, which involved spraypainting Jesaulenko's navy suit and trying several methods to recreate that mark he took almost 40 years ago, including a small trampoline, a stepladder and finally successfully with a large crane.

Jesaulenko revealed to Inside Football one day that his last name was actually Esaulenko instead of Jesaulenko. The famous Carlton champion said when he migrated to Australia as a young lad from Europe, he had arrived in Australia, immigration officials actually listed "Esaulenko" with a "J" in front of the "E", thinking that they had heard a "J" in his name.

Cultural References

The main character in the Australian children's book "Jezza" is a dog named after Alex Jesaulenko. "Ordinary dogs chase tennis balls or fetch silly sticks. But not me. Football's my game. My new family called me Jezza because that was the name of a famous footballer. He was brilliant. I don't mean to brag, but I'm quite a footballer too." (Bell, 1991).

Jezza is mentioned in the song "The Back Upon Which Jezza Jumped" by Melbourne band TISM [This Is Serious Mum]. The song depicts Graeme 'Jerker' Jenkin being left to be forgotten because of Jezza's spectacular mark (TISM, 1985).



  • Bell, K 1991, Jezza, Macmillan Australia, Melbourne.

  • TISM,1985, This Is Serious Mum - Demo Tape, Melbourne.

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