MERRIVALE stalwart Russell Gleeson felt honoured to receive the Warrnambool and District Football Netball League (WDFNL) volunteer of the year award.
And with good reason. The individual the accolade is named after, long-serving WDFNL administrator Logie Watson, was a close friend of his family.
“This is a bit special for me personally,” Gleeson said at the WDFNL senior presentation night at City Memorial Bowls Club on Monday.
“I used to play junior football with Peter at Warrnambool and his old man (Logie) was involved in administration. I’ve known the Watson family for 40 years.”
Gleeson, the father of Merrivale footballers Matt, Sam and Jack and Koroit netballer Kate Dobson, is the fifth winner of the Logie Watson Memorial award.
He played junior football with Warrnambool in the Hampden league before crossing to Merrivale when he started his senior career.
“I finished under 18s at Warrnambool and they came and saw me. I didn’t know anyone down there really. I was just impressed with getting asked,” he said.
The conversation sparked a sporting passion which has spanned three decades.
He played more than 200 senior matches as a “pretty dour backman” and has had stints on the Tigers’ committee as president and secretary.
“Back in the day nearly every footballer went through the committee. I enjoyed it. It became a passion and part of my life,” he said.
His wife Helen has been beside him throughout. Her support, Gleeson said, was invaluable. “Especially early in the piece I was very heavily involved in footy and she was my back-up. She was up there washing jumpers and coaching netball,” he said.
Gleeson said the strength of Merrivale as a club was its focus on families. He noted of the senior footballers who played in the qualifying final against Dennington on Saturday, 14 had fathers who also played with the Tigers. Other winners of the Logie Watson Memorial award include Russells Creek’s Roy Brittain, the inaugural recipient in 2010.
Old Collegians’ Peter Healey (2011), Allansford’s Ann Holloway (2012) and South Rovers’ Colin Hetherington (2013) have also had their dedication recognised.