Lifelong friendships forged through football
author: Lorrie Liston
Every six months, a group of Old Collegians come together to relieve the sporting highs and memories of their days playing with the SPC Old Boys Football Club in the 1960s, coached by the great footballer and mentor Brian Gleeson (SPC 1947-52).
The Old Boys, along with their wives and partners, meet for lunch twice a year – a tradition spanning many decades without fail - which has transformed many SPC acquaintances into lifelong, strong friendships which continue to this day.
The SPC Old Collegians Football Club teammates met recently in Melbourne for their regular luncheon and Old Collegian Tony Fry (SPC 1956-60) has kindly shared the story of the SPC Old Collegians Football Club and some of his fondest memories.
“It was in the early 60s when Brian Gleeson, urged on by his previous school mates which included Ed Williams, Kevin Drake (SPC 1947-52), Noel Moore (SPC 1947-51) and John Martin (SPC 1949-50), agreed to assist with a rejuvenation of the St Patrick’s College Old Collegians Football Club by coaching the team in 1964-65.
It was the start of a memorable era, that is continuing as every six months, a group of Old Boys from that period gather with their wives and partners for a “SPCites catch-up lunch” with Brian (Gleeson).
Reflecting back to 1964-65, when the team won consecutive premierships in “F” Grade and then “E” Grade in the VAFA (Amateurs), those who played in these teams fondly remember the strong influence Brian had in the lives as young men in their early 20s.
Brian “recruited” (he was very pursuasive) a very strong team that included many of the players from the previous years, a very successful 1963 College team who were commencing their studies or other pursuits in Melbourne.
In its second year, the club started a 2nd XVIII, which added strength and an increased availability of players. The Old Boys Football Club provided an avenue for numerous Old Boys as well as friends who were recruited to play with the opportunity for friendships, support and companionship away from home.
Over the years at Billy Bell’s Hotel in South Melbourne, where players and supporters gravitated to after home matches at Middle Park, Old Boys and friends would enjoy catching up on St Patrick’s Day.
In 1989, a 25th anniversary reunion of the 1964-65 premierships was organised, which was a great success and enjoyed by all who attended.
Brian always brought the best out of his players and those who continue to catch up with him always have a memorable story to tell of his impact in their lives not only on the football field, but as a wise mentor.
It is worth mentioning that in his latter years, while he was able, it was a delight and a privilege to have the famous Brother Bill O’Malley (former College Headmaster) present at many of the matches. As expected, he knew everyone personally and it was a great pleasure to see him and accept his encouragement to always give your best.
There is no doubt that through an active involvement in the SPC Old Collegians Football Club, the friendship of many Old Boys and their friends was enjoyed and it has cemented relationships that still exist today.”