Ian Wilson: Upcoming WFC Past Players and Big Freeze

22 May 2024

“Boys, we are all getting on and from my experience in football the biggest thing I can pass on to you is that too much emphasis is put on premierships and individual awards. The best thing about the game is the people you meet along the way. Make the most of those relationships, because they are what matters most.” Donald McDonald

These are perhaps the most intelligent words our former coach has ever said! It was part of a speech he made to the Werribee players when Mick Barlow took over as coach and he hit the nail on the head.

Perhaps it’s because we are getting older and starting to sense our own mortality but reunions do become more special as time quickly advances.

This wasn’t the case early on for me. I was a bit reticent thinking no one would remember me or I wouldn’t remember their names but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Once you hear a characteristic laugh or see someone’s familiar face, suddenly the dormant chemicals in your brain kick off again. It’s instant recognition and the ‘man-hugs’ begin.

I think we all forget just how much time we invested at the footy club. We all worked or studied before putting in long hours training. There wasn’t much science to the training. The only philosophy was, ‘train longer and harder and we’ll get better’.

I can’t remember any bad relationships. Maybe there was the odd undesirable who came through the club over the six years I was there, but on the whole Werribee FC was a great place to play and have fun.

So many great characters came through the doors. Werribee is a destination club, especially now with its facilities but in the ‘olden days’ when the club had to compete in the VFA first division, the club had to source players outside of town from 1989-on in order to be competitive. Geographically this could prove to be challenging for some.

The boys from Geelong such as Nick Walsh, Greg Chapman and Stephen Sells weren’t just excellent players but they were often the last to leave the social club. They left a legacy of behaviours that decades of future Geelong players have been happy to replicate!

Other players who drove long distances and fell in love with the club were Robbie Morris, Richard Geary and the ‘Beanbag With Legs’, Frank Lesiputty. You’ll still see Robbie and Richard at reunions having driven from Deniliquin and Yarrawonga respectively.

You never know who you’ll bump into at a PPO day. For instance I had a strange interaction at the 2019 event. We set up at the Hungry Jacks end of AAO and I scored some Furphy cartons from a mate to raffle off.

As the players came in, I feverishly wrote down their names on raffle tickets. I had my head down and asked the next player their name. “Justin Bailey”, came the reply. I stopped in my tracks immediately, looked up and it all came flooding back to me.

“You knocked me out just before half time in the ’93 Grand Final didn’t you?” I asked. “Yep, that’s right.” “Nice to meet you” I said. “Nice to meet you too” he replied. A very VFA exchange! Justin came across to Werribee from Port Melbourne in the mid 90’s.

The 2024 Past Players will be this Sunday at AAO versus North Melbourne. There is a Presidents Luncheon available for $50 at 10am with guest speaker Mick Barlow. From 12pm the PPO function will be on the hill. $10 gets you a stubbie holder and a drink. Whatever happens, you’re guaranteed a gut laugh or two.

Michael McMaster has organised a bus leaving Kardinia Café at 9am. BYO drinks for the trip. A big thanks to Mixer, Adam Taylor and Zach Thornton for setting up the day this year.

 

Another event to put in your diaries is The Big Freeze Day on Saturday June 8 versus Frankston. The game starts at 2.05pm but there will be fundraising activities for Fight MND beforehand. Keep an eye on the club’s website as more details come to hand.

Neale Daniher played a huge part in his one year at Werribee, helping the club to reach its first ever grand final in 1991. Despite two dodgy knees and being dragged out of retirement, he was an inspirational player on the ground and a gentleman off it.

Past players Michael McMaster and Daryl Fenton along with former coach Leon Harris have been conducting lunches for Neil since he returned from Perth with his diagnosis of MND.

They have been hugely successful and Neale has always been there with that dry sense of humour.

I remember one lunch when Leon Harris proudly announced to us that he came runner up in the VFL’s Best First Year Player award of (I think) 1979. Someone asked who came first.

Leon pointed to Neale, who paused and with the timing of a seasoned comedian said, “Big gap between first and second.”

You can grab your Big Freeze 10th Anniversary beanie at any Coles or Bunnings and join the fun on the 8th of June at AAO. Go Tiges!


Following the bittersweet chapter of our history that was the 2023 season, the story continues and this year we want you back to help us achieve a different ending.Our board, our coaches, our players and our staff are ready to embark on a new season, united in our mission for the ultimate success. The question remains: Are you with us?

Sign up as a member for 2024 via INTIX here.


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