Recently, I came across a video on YouTube I’d forgotten about.
It’s an entry in the 2008 Tropfest short film competition called Enzo. It was directed by Sam Worthington (yes, star of Avatar, etc) and it featured Dorian Nkono as the title character, a football obsessive who has dreams of a pro and international representative career, even though his prospects appear limited.
Enzo reveals that he currently plays for Balmain Rovers. In real life, it was the actor Dorian who played for Balmain Rovers, a real team of which I was one of the founders.
But let’s rewind.
I played soccer (sic) from childhood in Tasmania up to my early 20s.
There was high school soccer, which I don’t recall going very well for me at all, and a season or two with local amateur club Metro – where my brother Andy played in an older division. And then were maybe three seasons with ALPS, a team formed by another brother, Harry, and his ALP mates. Andy and I joined for a while, and various friends drifted in and out.
When I moved to Sydney in 1981, I played a trial match with a local pub team in Surry Hills and I scored two goals! They offered me $25 a match. I played with Brazil in the local pub comp (which was semi-pro but frankly of a lower standard than the corresponding amateur men’s comp) for four matches, before I landed a contract with a puppet theatre company that involved a tour of regional NSW. For the record, I didn’t score in those four matches for Brazil.
I then worked as a theatre performer with various companies, some based in regional centres. The ones based in Sydney involved too much touring to consider committing to a soccer team. Apart from social kick arounds, I played no soccer for the 16 years from 1982 to 1998.
I got sucked back in when I was 38, helping establish a team called – wait for it – Balmain Rovers, part of the Balmain & District Soccer Club.
We played in the All Age divisions against much younger teams. Our first results were of the order of 0-12 and 0-14, but we persevered and developed a strong team culture based around having fun on the field and consuming a great deal of beer off it.
I built a website for Rovers and hit on the masterstroke of aiming it at UK lads coming to Australia on a working visa and wondering where they’d get a game of football. We found some very handy talent that way, and results started turning our way.
That attracted the attention of the club, who had been mostly content to let teams like Rovers run themselves. As we created spin-off Rovers teams, the club liked the way we organised things.
I continued playing All Age for Balmain Rovers for nine more years, becoming a Committee member in the process. I scored one goal, a moment I will always treasure.
In a club with 1,500 junior players, I organised the men’s seniors. I oversaw an expansion of five All Age men’s teams to 12, and two Over 35 teams to five, winning multiple premierships in the Canterbury District SFA comp and the Sydney Amateur League.
I played in four All Age premiership winning teams myself, including in my last year for the club at age 48.
That year, I was made a Life Member (one of only 63, so far), and I received the pictured badge.
It means a lot to me.
When we moved south of Sydney to Corrimal, I ended up playing with the Russell Vale Over 35s team for five seasons. I was part of two Premiership winning teams, although – frustratingly – I didn’t get to play in either Grand Final.
I coached my son’s Under 6 and then Under 7 Corrimal Juniors teams for two seasons and was involved with my daughter’s Under 11 and Under 12 Balgownie Juniors teams, but my hands-on involvement with football now seems to have petered out.
It’s only now, as I’m older and I consider my life in football, that I realise what a huge honour was bestowed on me by Balmain & District Junior Soccer Club. I see my name there on the club website alongside other stalwarts under Honours, and my heart really does swell.
Life Member – that’s me.