THE soccer scene in Warrnambool could be completely different in 2012 if a young Peter Luke hadn’t laced up his boots 21 years ago.
The Warrnambool-raised sport teacher now plays for Lennox Head Football Club in Byron Bay, but his enthusiasm for the game when he was just five years old is considered one of the reasons organised soccer was introduced to the south-west.
Influenced by his soccer-mad Scottish father Allan, Luke was always interested in the sport but had no outlet for his desire to play.
As the story goes, in 1991 a conversation between his mother, Mary, and former player John McMillan sparked Warrnambool’s very first juniors training session.
The sport has continued to grow and evolve ever since, McMillan said.
“Peter’s mum asked me to teach him how to play soccer,” the Warrnambool Wolves Football Club founder said.
“I was just having a kick with a few mates and she asked if I’d teach him how to kick a ball. Because of that, soccer is in Warrnambool. It’s as simple as that.”
Luke was only young but recalls the early days as exciting times at the Harris Street Reserve, as training sessions developed into competition.
“Straight away I was involved, every Sunday,” the 25-year-old said.
“It was pretty small and foreign.
“Everyone interested in playing came down, we split into teams and had a round-robin competition that way.
“That was pretty much until the Warrnambool Rangers came about, which created a whole new thing.
“It progressed to more of a weekday training and competition on the weekend.”
McMillan said Warrnambool now had 350 juniors and 80 seniors in regular competition, but in his eyes it all began with he and Luke kicking a ball around in long grass.
“I remember just starting off with him, then my two daughters and his two sisters, and gradually more people would ask me to do it,” he said.
“I put an ad in the paper for anybody who wanted to learn the game to come down to the Harris Street Reserve.
“Council said if I could get soccer going in Warrnambool it would be great because Harris Street was set up for that and it wasn’t going yet.
“Now I can have 200 kids out there.
“It’s all grown from little Peter Luke wanting to play and what I love about it is he’s still playing all these years later.”
Luke downplayed the suggestion he was responsible for soccer’s origins in Warrnambool, saying it was only a matter of time before the world game took off in the south-west.
“I think it’s amazing how far it’s come.
“I’m really happy with it and I’m looking forward to coming down and having a run at the Glenelg Games with some old friends in November.”