Ian ‘Bluey’ Shelton, pictured with Kevin Sheedy when he was inducted into Essendon’s Hall of Fame in 2019, was well known in the region’s football circles.

AVENEL football great Ian ‘Bluey’ Shelton died last week, aged 81.

Shelton was a premiership player for Essendon, playing at centre half-back for 91 games from 1959 to 1965 with the Bombers.
He was a part of of two Bombers premierships in 1962 and 1965.

Shelton was also named best first-year player in 1959, claimed the Outstanding Services Award for the Bombers in 1962 and was appointed Essendon vice-captain in 1965.

After being awarded life membership at Essendon in 2005, Shelton was inducted into the Bombers’ prestigious Hall of Fame in 2019.

Shelton first sparked the interest of VFL recruiters while playing senior football for Avenel in the 1950s.

He had to overcome early permit and injury problems in his first year for the Bombers in 1959, but after five years in the system, he missed the 1964 season because of a serious eye injury suffered at the family farm, which led to fears he would lose his sight.

But Shelton made a miraculous recovery to become a major part of the 1965 premiership side as the Bombers’ vice-captain.

Retiring from the VFL at 25, Shelton took up a captain-coach role at Seymour before ending his football career with Avenel, back where it all began. 

Essendon president Paul Brasher said the club was mourning the loss of a Bombers champion.

“It is with deep sadness we learned of Bluey’s passing on Wednesday morning, and we extend our sincere condolences to Bluey’s wife Marj and their family,” Brasher said.

“In a relatively short career, Bluey’s contribution to the red and black was significant and his on-field achievements were both many and varied. Bluey was known for his strength and courage and was idolised by many for his feats.”

When Shelton was inducted into the Bombers’ Hall of Fame in 2019, Essendon champion Kevin Sheedy revealed the boy from Avenel was the reason behind Sheedy growing up as an Essendon supporter.

“Bluey is the main reason I grew up supporting Essendon. He is an incredibly inspirational player and even though he had a short career, his impact was profound,” Sheedy said.

“I wore the number 10 because of him and I never changed my number. When I moved into a coaching role, I always gave players that I thought would be very good players the number 10.

“To me, Bluey was the one person that Essendon needed to protect its wonderfully skilled team.”

Essendon’s players and staff wore black armbands on Saturday night against Hawthorn in honour of both Shelton and Dr Bruce Reid, who sadlypassed away in October last year.