Born: Melbourne on January 29, 1950.
Wife: Sandra. Children: Angela and Fiona.
Parents: Tom and Annie. Siblings: John, Anthony, Michael, Maree and Dympna (passed away).
Education: St Brigid's Crossley before going to St Patrick's Primary School in Koroit.
Sporting highlight: Being involved with the Warrnambool Football Netball Club in various administration roles and receiving life membership to the club.
Tom, I'm interested in your education at St Brigid's Crossley and St Patrick's Primary School at Koroit. What can you tell me about those years?
They were quite incredible when I think about them. Originally, at St Brigid's, I was to go from preps to year 12, but when I got to grade six, they said I had to go to St Patrick's in Koroit for the final years of my education. My parents lived in Koroit for a while before moving to Killarney and then back to Koroit. Despite moving to Warrnambool and then to Melbourne for a few years before coming back home to Warrnambool, I'm still friends with many people who I grew up with in Koroit.
Before we talk about your time in local football, you were a bookmaker. Were you successful as a bookie?
Let's just say I survived. I started as a bookie in 1978 and lasted 20 years. I could see to survive, you had to get bigger, or it was going to get really tough. In the 1980s and 1990s, on-course betting made up 95 per cent of the betting pool and off-course was five per cent, which has changed dramatically over the years. The on-course pool now has dropped significantly, while the off-course pool is massive.
Did you play footy in your early years?
I played juniors with Koroit. I ended up injuring my right Achilles' tendon in a game for Koroit against Port Fairy when I was 19. The medical people back in that era were not what they are today. The injury was basically the end of my career but I came back when I was 25 years old to have one season with Tower Hill. Leon Carey was the captain-coach at Tower Hill in my only season with the club.
Let's talk about your involvement at Warrnambool. Tom, you mentioned you'd filled various roles at the club. What was the most interesting?
That's a tough question because I was heavily involved when the club was broken up into two parts - a board and the football club, but the one I loved was recruiting players back when Grant Thomas was the coach. It's well documented that Warrnambool's senior side under Grant Thomas won four consecutive flags in 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989. I'll never forget after we won the flag in 1986 leading into the 1987 season, we had 58 players doing pre-season training down at Warrnambool's Harris Street. The amount of players we had on the training track was testament to Grant. They all knew Grant had played in the AFL previously and they wanted to be coached by a person who changed the face of Hampden league footy. The impact Warrnambool had on the Hampden league back in that era can best be described as huge. We had eight players who were selected in the Hampden league inter-league sides. It was a remarkable feat and one which showed the ability and the talent of players that were at Warrnambool under Grant.
Tom, that's an interesting comment you made saying Thomas changed the style of Hampden league footy. Can you explain what you mean by that statement?
I'll never forget Bill Toleman and I staged the last interview with Grant before he was given the coaching job. Grant said in that interview he would change the style of footy in the Hampden league and he was proven right. Grant changed how footy came out of the back line and all the other clubs followed. Grant had very close ties with the late top AFL coach Alan Jeans and a few other smart footy brains in Melbourne that he was always in contact with regarding different aspects of how to play the game.
Who were some of the players you helped recruit to Warrnambool during that successful era in the club's history?
I was lucky to have had people like Bill Toleman, Bob Guiney and Ian 'Lefty' Wright helping me with sourcing recruits, but on a lot of occasions, I would conduct the interviews with the prospective players by myself. Players, including David Cassidy, Daryl Fenton, Murray Fry, Alby Smedts, Jason Mifsud and Mick McKinnon, were enticed to play for Warrnambool. We only had Alby for the one season. I'll never forget the sensational mark that Alby took in the 1986 grand final against Camperdown. The club also had other great players, including Lee McCorkell, Keith McLeod, Billy Couch, Mark Fedley and Wayne Billings, playing in that premiership era from 1986 to 1989. They all ended up being top players for the club. I'll never forget Jason Mifsud was playing under 16s with South Warrnambool. We knew Jason was the best player in the competition. I went and had a chat to Jason's dad Sam and then to the both of them. Sam said Jason's heart was with South but his head said he should go to Warrnambool. Grant and Jason ended up being great mates.
Tom, how big of an impact did the late Bill Toleman have on the Warrnambool Football Netball Club?
Bill's involvement was huge. He won the best and fairest award as a player and was a premiership player before going on to be the president of the club. He filled the role as chairman for a stint, plus he held other numerous roles at Warrnambool. Bill was passionate about the Warrnambool Football Netball Club. He upset some people at various times but you knew he had Warrnambool at heart.
What were your thoughts when it was announced that you were going to be made a life member of the Warrnambool Football Netball Club?
I was thrilled to be given life membership. It's a wonderful honour and I'm extremely proud. The Warrnambool Football Netball Club is a magnificent club and I've found it very rewarding to have been involved. I've made some great friends. I decided not to seek re-election to the board after being in the role for eight years. It's time that some fresh blood got involved with the club.
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