WALKING into the Friendly Societies' Park and wandering up to the change rooms, more often than not you'd find John De Grandi watching his beloved South Warrnambool train.
He was there for the juniors and the seniors, with a smile on his face and eager for a quick chat.
He would ask how you were, about your family and work.
Johnny, as he was affectionately known, was part of the Hampden Football Netball League club's fabric, a familiar face on game day as a long-time volunteer umpire and avid follower.
The Roosters icon died on Sunday in hospital, aged 67.
Jock O'Connor, a former player and past president, enjoyed his regular chats with Johnny across more than 40 years.
"I came to the club in 1982 and Johnny was front and centre then," he told The Standard.
"He was larger than life and boundary umpire of the under 18s and was one of the first people to greet you any time you arrived at the club.
"He'd be there at 4.30 in the afternoon waiting for everyone to arrive. He was super passionate about football but he became even more passionate about the netball I think, he was its number one supporter.
"He was a very enthusiastic and infectious bloke who was dedicated to it and absolutely loved what he was doing.
"He used to love showing off doing one-handed push-ups in his heyday. They slowly got worse and worse but the crowd loved it."
Johnny took his umpiring role seriously - firstly along the boundary and then behind the goals - after taking up the whistle in 1970.
It's estimated he umpired more than 1000 games across five decades.
"In a couple of his big feature games, he'd let you know almost a year before of the date and they generally used to coincide with playing Warrnambool," Jock said.
"He was a very good statistician and manipulator of the draw. People used to question how many games he'd participated in but I sat down and did the maths once and said 'actually, he's pretty accurate'.
"He was a fantastic volunteer for South Warrnambool - one of the greatest."
South Warrnambool president Steve Harris said Johnny, who had battled cancer in the past, left an indelible mark on the club he loved so much.
"John loved our club and our club loved him," he said.
"As I often say, sporting clubs are so much more than places to kick a footy or throw a netball, they are places to belong. Johnny De Grandi epitomised this philosophy."
Steve said the Friendlies would be a different place without Johnny.
"Johnny was one of those characters where he never really seemed to age," he said.
"When someone with his nature passes away, you just always expect him to be there."
The COVID-19 pandemic, which wiped out the 2020 season, "knocked Johnny around a bit".
"He was missing that sense of purpose at times and I distinctly remember at the start of last season he was just so excited we were back playing and he was back in his normal routine," Steve said.
Steve described Johnny as "one of life's gentlemen".
"He was a man of simple needs but he always had an interest in others," he said.
"He'd always say to you 'how's the family?' That touch and reach in the community meant people knew him."
Allan Parsons first met Johnny when they were boundary umpires - one for Port Fairy and one for South Warrnambool.
His connection with Johnny - the son of the late Cyril and Norma De Grandi and one of six siblings - developed further when Allan joined the Roosters as head trainer.
"He was an all-round good guy and everybody around the club loved him," he said.
"He was one of those people who had that aura about him. Everyone was drawn to him and even at functions Johnny was always talking to somebody and everybody would talk to him."
Allan, who stepped away from his role three years ago after a 14-year stint, said Johnny was passionate about the Roosters' under 18 teams.
"He had a soft spot for them and they used to return the respect," he said.
"The under 18s really looked after him and made him part of the group."
Three-time Brisbane Lions premiership player Jonathan Brown, who honed his skills at South Warrnambool before he was drafted into the AFL, said "Johnny was the epitome of community football in this country".
"It feels like yesterday he would do one-armed push-ups in the middle of our team song huddle after a victory," he said.
"He is a legend of our football club and town."
Johnny was also a well known figure in De Grandis Sports store, which closed in 2011 after 114 years of operation in Warrnambool.
"He was pretty much the PR man," Jock said.
"Johnny would greet you, talk to you and help you out.
"He was a great presence in there as well. He wasn't so good on the till but he was definitely a feature.
"If you were going to De Grandis, you knew Johnny was going to entertain you."
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