Foot­ball club sees in cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions

Great Southern Herald - - Front Page - Tim Edmunds

While some coun­try foot­ball clubs are strug­gling to sur­vive, Gnowangerup will mark its 100th an­niver­sary this Satur­day. Gnowangerup Foot­ball Club cap­tain Tom Ste­wart and pre­mier­ship coach Damien “Bud” Ste­wart are ready for the cel­e­bra­tions.

In a small town the foot­ball club is the main hub, it is the heart of the town. Lach­lan Lewis

Dur­ing a pe­riod of un­cer­tain times for coun­try foot­ball clubs, the Gnowangerup Foot­ball Club has good rea­son to cel­e­brate.

The sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone of 100 years is put in per­spec­tive as ri­val clubs have fallen by the way­side in re­cent sea­sons as coun­try town pop­u­la­tions con­tinue to get smaller.

But a cou­ple of good drop punts from the town cen­tre of Gnowangerup, home to about 600 peo­ple, the foot­ball club is en­joy­ing a rare pe­riod of suc­cess on and off the field.

The pe­riod co­in­cides with the cen­te­nary of the Bull­dogs this Satur­day as the club hosts Newde­gate in the team’s fi­nal home and away match for the season.

The season won’t be over de­spite a few sore heads on Sun­day as the club pre­pares at a tilt for their sec­ond league pre­mier­ship in three sea­sons in what is likely a two-horse race for the pre­mier­ship with Box­wood Hill, who cel­e­brated their 50th an­niver­sary a fort­night ago.

With a 43-year pre­mier­ship drought from 1953 to 1996 which was fol­lowed by a 19year wait for an­other flag in 2015, the Bull­dogs are en­joy­ing a golden pe­riod.

But it is off the field the club is par­tic­u­larly proud of in its cen­te­nary year, ac­cord­ing to sec­ond-year pres­i­dent Lach­lan Lewis.

“In a small town the foot­ball club is the main hub, it is the heart of the town,” he said.

“It brings peo­ple to­gether, es­pe­cially a coun­try farm­ing town, it brings peo­ple back in on Satur­days, Thurs­day and Tues­day.”

The Gnowangerup Sport­ing Com­plex con­tin­ues to bring the lo­cal com­mu­nity to­gether with win­ter sport Satur­days of foot­ball, hockey and net­ball.

Fam­i­lies are brought to­gether for a day of sport and so­cial­is­ing across the re­gion east of Albany, which Mr Lewis be­lieves is the envy of neigh­bour­ing leagues.

At times the game of foot­ball has been game of sur­vival in the Ongerup Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion with clubs Ongerup and Kent Dis­tricts fold­ing in the past decade and Bor­den go­ing into re­cess for 2017, leav­ing the com­pe­ti­tion with only five clubs.

“I’m run­ning around and kick­ing the footy and now my kids are run­ning around kick­ing the footy,” Mr Lewis said.

“We want to keep the OFA go­ing be­cause of the set-up with fam­i­lies.

“It will be hard for us to go to a league where it’s footy one day and have to play some­where to play hockey.

“We will join the Albany league and beat teams down there if we ever have to.”

The sport com­plex suf­fered a ma­jor set­back in Fe­bru­ary 2010 when a freak storm ripped the roof off the clu­b­rooms and it was two years be­fore their home was re­built.

“That brought the core of the group to­gether and put a lot more work and a lot more heart,” Mr Lewis said. “We had no cen­tral hub, we trained out of a garage stor­age shed.

“We have al­ways had a good core so we were never go­ing to go any­where else. We had some good com­mu­nity mem­bers who or­gan­ised grants.

“It took the whole com­mu­nity to get back to this place.”

Up to 500 peo­ple in­clud­ing many for­mer play­ers are ex­pected at the club’s cen­te­nary this Satur­day which will in­clude guest speak­ers rem­i­nisc­ing on the gen­er­a­tions of the club and an auc­tion of the cen­te­nary jumpers be­ing worn this season.

For­mer league coach and now re­serves coach Rob­bie Miniter said the cen­te­nary meant a lot to all the fam­i­lies who had kept the club on the right path.

“To me I look at it that footy here has been my life, I’ve played here for 27 years,” he said.

“We have all got our dif­fer­ent stories. It shows what the foot­ball club means to you and what the com­mu­nity can do for you.

“I went away twice to coach other clubs and Gnowangerup has wel­comed me back so I feel a fair bit for this place. Even those peo­ple in the town that aren’t sports minded they come up here be­cause it’s a good

so­cial feel­ing and want to be a part of it.

“If you have some­thing like that your club will go on if peo­ple want to be a part of some­thing.” Mr Lewis said the club was proud of its his­tory and re­cent suc­cess stories in­clude Timm House who was drafted to Gee­long in 2016, and Kira Phillips who plays for Fremantle in the AFLW com­pe­ti­tion. “There is a good mix of older guys com­ing back to help and younger guys com­ing through,” he said.

“With these fa­cil­i­ties we are go­ing in a good di­rec­tion.”

Pic­tures: Lau­rie Ben­son

Tom Ste­wart, re­serves coach Rob­bie Miniter, pres­i­dent Lach­lan Lewis, pre­mier­ship coach Damien Ste­wart and sec­re­tary Jack Scan­lan are set for the Gnowangerup Foot­ball Club cen­te­nary this Satur­day.

Cap­tain Tom Ste­wart and pre­mier­ship coach Damien “Bud” Ste­wart.

Pic­ture: Lau­rie Ben­son

Team pic­tures: Gnowangerup Foot­ball Club

Gnowangerup teams from all decades will be recog­nised.

The club played in ver­ti­cal stripes early in the 20th cen­tury.

Many for­mer play­ers are ex­pected to at­tend the cen­te­nary cel­e­bra­tions.

Gnowangerup cap­tain Tom Ste­wart re­flects on the his­tory of the club.

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