When it comes to Essendon history, Geoff Blethyn isn’t a name widely known.
But his feats are certainly legendary.
In 1968, ’62 and 65’ premiership player Jack Clarke was enjoying his first season as senior coach after taking over the reins from the legendary John Coleman.
In that year, at just 17 years of age, a tall, skinny and agile forward named Geoff Blethyn had made his senior debut for the Bombers.
It’s an achievement most in their first season of league football would be proud of, particularly given Blethyn was still just a student at Strathmore High School.
The 1968 season had seen Essendon’s reserves and senior sides enjoy fruitful campaigns, culminating in both teams making their grand finals against Richmond and Carlton respectively.
The day before the 1968 VFL Grand Final, Blethyn entered the club’s final training session at Windy Hill believing he would be lacing up the boots in the reserves’ decider.
But Clarke would spring one of the biggest surprises in VFL folklore in just his first year as senior coach.
“There was always a Friday meeting in the finals series,” Blethyn told The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club.
“We just turned up into the boardroom and he (Jack Clarke) read out the team and my name was in it. I had no inkling of anything.
“So there I was, a schoolboy, thinking I was going to play in the reserves the next day and instead, I was playing in the VFL Grand Final.”
The next day proved to be a whirlwind for Blethyn.
Having gone from relative obscurity to being the talk of the state, Blethyn recounted the emotions he experienced.
“The Herald Sun ran with a headline saying, ‘Dons select boy’ and people had it plastered on their windows in the street,” he said.
“It was a magical experience to walk in and see the colours in the changerooms and the nervousness.
“Obviously, I was a new kid in the team virtually. I remember Alec Epis was fantastic at welcoming me and he was like a shadow that you had.
“We ran out on to the ground, and honestly, to experience and explain what that was like having 116,000 people there, which was then a record, was unbelievable."
That Grand Final proved to one of the most memorable games in VFL/AFL history.
The then-record crowd of 116,828 people witnessed an intense low-scoring affair with a Ron Barassi-led Carlton, which held an 11-point margin at the final break.
The Dons pressed hard in the final quarter, but the Blues held on to their lead to secure the premiership by three points.
The result denied Essendon its third flag of the '60s and created history as the Bombers became the first side to score more goals in a Grand Final than their opponent and lose.
Impressively, Blethyn held his own on the biggest day of all, kicking four of his team’s eight goals, almost securing the Bombers’ 13th flag off his own boot.
What made his performance even more remarkable was Blethyn played the Grand Final with half of his eyesight in perfect order.
“One of the things that had happened to me during the season was I was in the transition from glasses to contact lenses,” he said.
“Mine used to pop out. When one had popped out, I went to the club, and we got another one. And then another one had come out, and they were about $25 each. I thought after the third one (came out), what if they (the club) don’t say ‘We’ll buy you another one’.
“I played a lot of the season in the reserves with one contact lens, and in the Grand Final I played with one contact lens.”
From surrounding himself in the hype of almost becoming a VFL premiership player in only his second game, the aftermath of the Grand Final was certainly subdued.
Despite being a massive storyline all weekend, Blethyn went straight back into normal life with minimal fanfare.
“From a Grand Final on Saturday, [the next day] I played with the local church team and opened the batting at some dusty old oval in Tullamarine, and school on Monday morning was no different,” he said.
“You walked in and sat in the classroom and what you did on Saturday was finished.”
Despite making his debut for the club at such an early age, Blethyn would go on to only play five more seasons with the mighty red and black.
The 183cm forward played 84 games for the Bombers, kicking 216 goals which included a 107-goal season in 1972 to put Blethyn alongside John Coleman and Matthew Lloyd as the only players in club history to kick over 100 majors in a season.
At the age of 21, Blethyn would leave the Bombers for a job opportunity in Western Australia, returning in 1976 for a final season before leaving Victoria again for South Australia.
Blethyn's story is part of episode three of The Bombers: Stories of a Great Club, which will air at 7:30pm AEDT on Tuesday exclusively on Fox Footy and Kayo. Episode four will follow at 8pm.