Last week marked National Volunteer Week and what better way to celebrate than to shed some light on the tireless work that some of Emmaus St Leo’s very own volunteers do for their club. Current club president Alex Maunders could not speak more highly of all the volunteers whose dedication ‘is the lifeblood of any community club’ and without them, such a club would not exist. These volunteers embody the Animals spirit and keep the club going, and it’s those we’re celebrating this week.
Andrew McCormack could quite literally be considered a cornerstone of the Emmaus St Leo’s Football Club. At Bennettswood Reserve, you’re more likely to hear him referred to as ‘Doc’ or even ‘Doctor Mack’ which comes from a self-appointment of a ‘doctor liaison officer’ job title during footy trips, as well as a way of separating the many ‘Macks’ who used to be around the club. As designated barman, Doc is probably more likely to remember your drink order than he is your name! His job titles have changed considerably since he joined the club in round 5 of the 1971 season, the first year of the club. First, he was a player, who had to retire in 1984 just short of his 200 games due to a back injury. He felt compelled to stay around the club, citing its culture and how the Animals family looked after each other in tough times. Doc’s been a runner, water boy, trainer, done rub downs, provided some strange remedies for players relating to alcohol, and was a self-confessed ‘opposition antagoniser’. But in 2019, he’s still the barman, and does a good job of being the men’s team manager on Saturdays, as well as helping out around the club as he’s mostly certainly not passed his use by date. The fact that he’s still going strong is a testament to how much he loves the Animals.
Club President Alex Maunder believes he is a true legend of the club and calls the amount of work he puts in before players arrive and well after they leave, immense.
”The club wouldn’t function without him. His 4 premiership flags with the club have instilled in him a great sense of achievement and pride which will stay with him for life, fully believing the three Emmaus St Leo’s teams to be capable of their own flags this year.”
He’s also incredibly proud to be able to see the granddaughter of first club president Bill Stephen, Sam Bridgland, take the field with the women’s side.
You could probably recognise his dog, Lily, well before you could recognise him given her sneaky ability to find a way out onto the ground during a game, but her owner, Phil O’Donoghue, affectionately known as OD around the club, is a majorly important member of the Animals family. He can remember being a part of the club back as far as 1975. In those 40+ years, he’s served 7 as secretary, 10 on the committee, and 1 as president, though willingly admits that the reason he hasn’t played a game is because he has two left feet. There have been rumours that OD has played one, but McCormack vehemently denies it, and if anybody would know, it’s definitely him! Now, OD is head trainer and does the kit bags to ensure that the other trainers are set and ready for game day. He probably dedicates at least 10 to 12 hours a week to the club, believing that it’s a good interest to have and the people around the club are fantastic. His responsibilities also include being facilities manager of the new clubrooms by the committee, which means he deals with the council with things like blocked toilets. Him and Lily are always the first to arrive on game days, OD making sure the facilities and the rooms are in shape for all three teams and Lily running the birds away from the ground and ensuring there aren’t any new smells that need investigating. Maunders believes that OD is part of the fabric of the Emmaus St Leo’s Football Club given his involvement since the very early days. He also names OD’s hot roast beef rolls as an institution of end of season functions.
Sarah Dawson is the women’s team manager and she makes sure things go smoothly on game days, like team sheets are correct, and organising volunteers for things like boundary and goal umpiring. She found the job opportunity online, and was excited about giving it a go, and be able to get involved in suburban football again. The club has impressed her with both its facilities and how everyone is willing to help everyone.
Cam Gardner runs out onto the ground every weekend as an Animal, but he’s also the guy who keeps up to date with the team managers to make sure they’ve got everything they need. He also liaises with past players, coaches, and supporters who might be able to help out for game day roles. Once teams get read out on Thursday nights, he also allocates non-playing players to vacant roles. His role in the committee also has him helping make the policies for the club this season.
To put it simply, the work of the volunteers week in week out makes the Emmaus St Leo’s Football Club the place to be. Their dedication is second to none and it just speaks to the culture that the Animals have facilitated at Bennettswood Reserve that people are so willing to put time and effort to preserve it. Both Maunders and the club cannot thank them enough for their contribution each and every week.