A premiership in the park - West Coburg
Herald Sun September 2009
When I left the Coburg Football Club for federal politics in 1992 I thought that would be the end of my coaching days. After some 313 games playing and coaching, including five grand finals and three premierships, the time had come to move on. Over time I forgot just how much I loved coaching and how exciting and nerve wracking it could be.
Last Sunday – a decade after the first of consecutive premierships against Williamstown - all the coaching memories stormed back. On a soft Greenvale ground with the traditional centre pitch mudheap I savoured the exhilaration of a premiership one more time, when my West Coburg Under 16s came back from the dead to snatch victory with two minutes left on the clock. Early in the third quarter we trailed by 26 points. We’d been totally outplayed by Keilor. It seemed all was lost as we shunted names across the magnetic board and sought a tactic that might win the day
Isn’t football a magical thing, I thought, when the siren announced victory with the ball inside Keilor’s fifty-metre arc and only five points separating the teams. We only had one Muslim, Billy Kaakour, at Coburg in ‘88/89 and I don’t recall seeing a hijab. But at Greenvale, West Coburg mothers in hijabs and traditional Muslim clothing were as prolific as those in jeans. Football at the community level is truly a microcosm of Australia.
I now remember why I loved coaching in the old VFA. There is nothing like taking a group of people born and bred in a community, on a journey that captures the human condition and affirms how co-operation is the core of our existence. Yes, coaching a real club in a real community can be a magical thing.
The West Coburg premiership boys:
Our captain's name is Setanta MacAodha (Irish), my son's name is Ruairi (Irish) and among our team is Hassan Abdullah, Mahmoud Khodr, Kabalan Mokbel, Omar Saad, Naim Salloum, Akrama Taleb (Lebanese), Jaydn Bianchin, Dillon Marino, Marco Serruto, Marcus Carattoli, (Italian), Aaron Tsamasiros, Manni Koumaros (Greek) and our Balkans' boy Rhys Anticevic . Then there is Sam Grace, John Lindon (Italian mother), Rylie Thorneycroft, Tim Anderson, Matty Arman, Josh Baker and Alex Davey.