The Old Man
Lee Stewart pays tribute to his father who coached the local football team and was an inspiration to his sons and his players.
MAN: I've been playing with the Thornton-Eildon District Football Club since I was 8. By the time I was 15, I was playing at senior level against men twice my age. The old men said that if I was big enough and ugly enough to be playing at this level, then I was big enough to enjoy a beer or two. Two years later, we finally got to junior sides, an under 14s and an under 17s. I was to coach the under 14s side. My old man was to be the coach of the under 17s.
Some of these kids I was playing alongside only a few years ago. My youngest brother was also in the team. We never won a game. He still claims that I was one of the worst coaches that he had ever had. I don't agree, as there's some shockers since. The old man was to coach myself and my three brothers over the next few years, but never all at the same time. There were plenty of highs along the way, winning a few flags, and there was also invites to trials for under 18 teams.
I remember one time he promised all of the boys that if they won the grand final today, that he would sit down and have a beer with them. He had drank for at least 10 years when he had made this promise. The boys won, and he lived up to his word. This was the first and only time that I can ever remember him having a drink. He was to become a huge influence on many young lives throughout his days as a coach, a mentor, and as a mate.
One thing that he always wanted to see was the four of us all playing in the senior side at the one time. This was one of many things that he never got to see, as he passed away. His death had a huge impact on many young lives throughout the community. At the funeral, many of the junior players formed a guard of honor, wearing their jumpers. One mate even threw in his premiership medallion into the grave.
Two years after his death, my brothers and I eventually had the opportunity to run out onto the ground together, with all of our mates beside us. The same mates that shared it all.