All footy clubs regardless of size and stature are made up of a wide variety of characters. In fact in just the playing group of a senior club alone you’ll potentially find more personality types than the good people at Myers & Briggs have currently identified. And that’s before getting started on the supporters!
In this occasional series I look at stories behind some of the personalities that made up a footy club in the country some 20+ years ago.
First up is the selfless volunteer; the quiet achiever who rolls his of her sleeves up and gets the job done without much fuss…. generally for a good decade or more. Most clubs have this kind of volunteer and the well run ones have several. In rural areas in particular, where the local club is the heart of the community and volunteers especially hard to come by, these people are worth their weight in gold. Without them footy would not be played. Nor the community come together.
When I started playing in the early 1980’s our club had a great group of volunteers but there was one in particular our group took a shine to. ‘Flogger’ as he was known to one and all, was the archetypal selfless volunteer. He was our long term secretary who’d somehow been inveigled into his role after starting at the club as a goal umpire for the under 18’s, and more than two decades later he’d been unable (and secretly unwilling) to relinquish it.
To us, he was the pivotal person within the club; he was notionally responsible for all the player and game documentation and the club’s finances. But his remit seemed to extend far wider, to include club historian, scribe and league delegate to name a few. However, it was in his capacity as unofficial club welfare officer that he had the most impact on our group.
Looking back he was a moderating influence. One-part father figure and one-part Pope, Flogger was never one to seek the limelight, but his words carried more weight than most. On match days his poky little office within the clubrooms acted as a confessional of sorts, as from 11am onwards he’d receive a steady stream of visitors seeking his counsel.
A good judge of character who’d seen most of what could go on in a footy club before, he was the perfect man for the job. What made him especially so was his ability to seemingly have both the player and the club’s best interest at heart, (regardless of whether that was always strictly the case).
We quickly found him fair and trustworthy, with second to none local knowledge and a state of the art bullshit detector. Nary a word spoken within those four walls made it out without permission and as a result he gained our respect, becoming our ‘go to’ club official.
Like most clubs, our boys would invariably be boys, and boundaries regularly got tested (inside and outside the club). Sometimes individuals overstepped the mark and it was then that Flogger’s voice of reason was called upon. No issue was too great or small and he treated all with the necessary diligence and made a minimum of waves. Any advice pertaining to the matter was delivered in a suitably droll manner.
Just about all of us who played at that time got to sit in his office and take in a bit of Flogger’s advice at one stage or another during those years. Decades on I’m not sure any of us remember the specifics of those conversations, but I’m certain we all still remember the general thrust.
Every youngster growing up in a club environment needs a Flogger to impart common sense, wisdom and a few home truths occasionally and every club needs talented and tireless workers like him to ensure the community comes together and footy is played.
Very sadly in 1994, aged 50, our favourite volunteer died suddenly. At the time we probably didn’t realise quite what we’d lost, but looking back I do now. Over a pivotal period in which each of us would transition from pimply teenagers to grown men, I’m certain he, (and others), helped shape who we each became and how we carried ourselves.
If you had a Flogger in your footy club that you’ve never got around to thanking, if it’s not too late why not track him down?.
Postscript: In 1992 his beloved Castlemaine won its first senior premiership in 40 years. Despite being severely hampered by long term and chronic arthritis for several years (bad enough to have him relinquish his secretarial duties) Flogger had remained on the committee and was there to see the nail biting 5 point victory. The team featured several of ‘our group’.
Twenty three years on his wife Elaine remains a dedicated volunteer at the club and his legacy lives on through an annual fundraising initiative and both League and Club Awards named in his honour.