[Welcome to ‘I Love This Club’, a series of guest posts on in-the-back-of-the.net exploring what makes grassroots New Zealand football people tick, through sharing their stories about why they love their clubs. If you would like to contribute to this series by writing about your special club, please e-mail me via casagiordani at orcon dot net dot nz. Previous episodes in the series can be found here.]
By Tim Adams
Ellerslie AFC and I have had a relationship since I was 9 years old and first stepped onto a football field – some 23 years later I still remember that first game in my beloved Red, Black and Gold. Well I kind of remember, I got steamrolled by a much bigger kid in the first half and had to come off – but I’m told I found time to play in the sand for a bit, before I tried to tackle the biggest kid in the other team. In the second half I had my first shot on target – but sadly it was at my own goal as I had not realised we had swapped ends at halftime – whoops. My playing career never really took off – I over-achieved based on a fierce desire to compete against the biggest players in the opposition and I spent my fair share of time sitting out suspensions as a result – that said it was my 21 seasons playing for my club based at Michaels Ave Reserve that locked me in as a lifer.
Towards the end of my playing time I joined the senior committee at the club – at the time the club was very separate between the juniors and the seniors, but people were working hard to bring the two divisions closer together.
At the time of joining the committee the club was not in a great state. The juniors were starting to flourish the lack of facilities at Michaels Ave and the retirement of an old first team en masse were massive challenges to our future. Near rivals Mt Wellington (which eventually became Uni-Mt Wellington) and Eastern Suburbs threatened to completely dominate the local football scene. When the inevitable relegation from the then Northern League Premier Division came in 2005 (12 years after having won the Bluebird Premier League), the club turned to the ’93 hero George Ritchie to help us through a tough time.
George isn’t often given enough credit for this spell back in charge at the club, results were not flash but we survived in the Northern League while the club worked to bring youth back into the club. Part of this was the grooming of a talented young coach from the junior club who had a group of very good young players he had been working with – Warren Parke. When George stepped aside, luckily the club was able to convince Warren to take over the reins. It’s thanks to his hard work, as well as that of ex chair Geoff Dolan and ex Secretary Carol Ritchie (as well as many others) that the foundations of the rebuilding of the club were solid and allowed us a platform to succeed in the future.
How the club operates today is miles away from how it operated in ’93 and even from how it was in ’05, but all the work along the way from people who are passionate about the club has helped us get to where we are now, Yes I have been able to ride this journey as the chair in the past couple of years, but I couldn’t ask for a better group to work with – players, supporters, life members, volunteers and coaching staff, who understand a considered and sustainable growth plan provides a better long term future than a quick fix! Not always an easy thing for people to see…
History is always a part of this great club though, and one of my favourite stories from the scrapbooks about this club is detailed on our website, but let me share a section of it with you:
“Come 1953 and the Club was reformed through the efforts of a number of families. Enough members were gathered to form two senior teams in that first season, with games played at the Michaels Avenue ground, while training sessions took place at Ellerslie Domain, courtesy of the local rugby league club’s generosity in lending the club the land for this purpose. Training sessions on a Thursday evening consisted of a full-scale match between the previous Saturday’s first team and reserves, an encounter from which the coming Saturday’s line-ups were selected by the coaches and the committee members.”
Why do I love this club? I feel like this club took me in and helped me as a lost 9 year old who didn’t know what this footy thing was all about and helped me find out about this great game – it’s only fair I repay the favour and help this club grow to meet its full potential – it’s a part of me, now and forever!
[To play for, get involved with, or find out more about Ellerslie AFC, e-mail chairman at ellersliefootball dot org dot nz, visit www.ellersliefootball.org.nz, or follow them via www.twitter.com/EllerslieAFC!]
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.