MERRIVALE champion Terry Kelly knows the value of loyalty.
The personality trait, a rarity in the cash-driven country football environment, played a pivotal role in his football highlight.
Kelly, a self-confessed “goer”, had stepped down as Merrivale coach after three years at the helm at the end of 1990 after the Tigers had won the wooden spoon.
He faced questions about his football future and fielded multiple offers.
But having “preached” to potential recruits about the value of playing at Merrivale, Kelly said he would have felt hypocritical if he left. Twelve months later he was a premiership player as the Tigers broke a 12-year flag drought.
“I had some good offers to coach and play at other clubs, I just didn’t think it was right,” Kelly said.
“I thought there was some unfinished business there and I felt we weren’t that far away.
“I played a bit of footy with South Warrnambool and I noticed in the Hampden league you probably relied on your bottom six and in the district league you relied on your top six.
“Our top six wasn’t too bad, but we did fall away a bit. I thought an influx of two or three good players can make all the difference in the district league.
“In the end it turned out to be a great incentive to stay. It was great to see the club have success.”
The tale of triumph will be one of dozens told as about 300 people celebrate 80 years of football in Merrivale today.
Long-time club members will reflect on the glory years and the hard times at Merrivale Recreation Reserve when the Tigers take on Kolora-Noorat, and at a function at St Pius X Primary School tonight.
The footballers will play today’s third-versus-fourth clash in black jumpers, emblazoned with a MFC shield, a nod to the club’s ’70s strip.
Family is a recurring theme at the suburban club and Kelly will watch with pride as his son, senior captain James, leads the Tigers into battle.
“I still go to the football most weeks and the most enjoyment I get out of it is watching the sons of the blokes I played and coached with,” he said.
Another former champion, Kevin Greene, will also have a close eye on the action as his son Adam runs out with the reserves.
Greene said the club was “not upmarket” during his playing days in the ’70s, but the environment allowed him to make lifelong friends. “To raise money, when I was there, you’d do the gate sometimes yourself on Saturday, you’d play football and you’d organise a barrel after the game, which would be in a private garage,” he said.
“The clubs weren’t licensed, that’s how they ran. It moved around every week.”
Greene said he was looking forward to reuniting with his former teammates.
“I think it’s a very good idea. The boys that are organising (the celebrations) are doing a good job.
“The club does have good people that want to work for the club.”