Chris Gleeson - My Redan Story
What was is like growing up in Albury and what are some of your earliest footy memories?
Albury was a good place to grow up. My father was involved with Jindera FC in the Hume League (similar to Central Highlands league) and my earliest memories were being at the ground all day, having $2 to spend at the canteen which lasted all day and running the boundary for the teams including the seniors.
I could hardly throw the ball over my head. I started playing in the Lavington Little League which was a great concept similar I guess to the way U/9 footy is now done in Ballarat but with no club affiliation. I played for the brown hawks.
Did you play any senior football prior to moving to Ballarat?
I played seniors in 1989 and 90 for Albury FC debut at 16. I actually started that year playing in the thirds in the morning then running the boundary for the seniors in the afternoon and then ended up playing for them in the last three games of the year.
Who or what was it that attracted you to Redan and what were your initial impressions of the club?
I was coming to Ballarat to go to university straight after school and Raj Muker found out and recruited me to the club. He helped me find a house and settle with some other students new to Ballarat. I was very lucky. I was also very unfit starting training in late Feb I remember being a long way back on my first night at training at BHS.
You played under Michael Phyland and then David Blackburn, what were some of their strengths as coaches?
Mick was a great person, was hard and a good player. He and his wife Liz had a great impact on me, I remember when his kids were born and the time they spent for me.
David was also a hard coach and probably a lot simpler even for back then when it was pretty simple.
Michael Smith was Henderson Medallist in 1993 and 1994, what made him such a dominant force in the BFL at that stage?
Unbelievable ball winner, great balance played in moulded soles even on the heaviest of City Ovals. Ended up marrying one of the girls I was sharing a house with at the time. Great people.
Just how dominant were those North Ballarat sides you faced in the 90s?
My first game in 1991 was on the new look Northern Oval under lights and we were flogged. They were hard to beat in 1991,92 under Jimmy Buckley but a couple of clubs caught up a bit by 93. I thought they could be beaten. We lost to East in the Prelim in a good game and of course East went onto win that Grand Final in 93. I actually called the game on 3BA with the great Alan Benson and awarded BOG to Alistair Ford
Describe yourself as a footballer.
Would probably prefer others to do that. Had some pace and good skills liked kicking goals off the wing or on ball. Played a lot of juniors at half back and thought I could read the game OK.
Who were the best five players at Redan during your time and your toughest opponent?
Looking back we had some really good players. Mick Phyland played some great games, Mick Smith obviously got the most well deserved accolades, Darren Odgier could maybe have been still playing AFL, Chris Shultz kicked heaps of goals and hardly missed, Brendon Roberson for one year in 91 was a great player. Others like Andrew Locke, Ash Qualye, Andrew Schiltz and Tony Clarke were all good players.
As for the others hard to pick toughest but the better players around the ball in those days were great country players like Peter O’Connell, Gary Odgers, Sean Blood at East, Wes Lewis, Trav and Grant Polkinghorne at Nth, Paul Nicholls, Paul Burke at Ballarat, Carl Symons, Phil Canny at Point, Stu Homes at Sebas Jamie Grant at Daylesford. They were all older than me and taught me plenty. I’d say Joffa O’Connell if I had to.
How would you describe the culture of the club in those days?
I was obviously very young (just turned 18) so “culture” wasn’t something that resonated with me or really was even spoken about. You just went along. So, the environment I remember at the time was pretty good. There was no den like there is today but plenty of post match drinks at the Western Oval. There were some great people involved, some travellers from Melbourne and some blokes a touch older than me that were great for me when I moved to Ballarat.
Every now and then you run into someone from that time and you know they are just great people. I was sharing a house with a couple of girls who I was at Uni with and they liked the footy so came along as well and were part of the club. They were good days.
It was amazing the club fell so far so quick there for a while. In 1994 a number of the boys went overseas mid year, I’d done my knee early, there were a few other departures and by the start of 95 there were lots of new players and then for a few years there weren’t many wins at all.
Who were some of the officials and volunteers who had a major impact around Redan at the time?
Raj Muker, mentioned previously. I was always indebted to Pete Loughnan (Flogga) A visit to Pete’s Butchers on a Monday night fed us for a week and it was so cheap. You don’t realise about these things until years later. John Lawlass and “phantom” Peter Lelievre were also so great to me.
What are your highlights of your time at Redan and are there any wins that really stand out?
Getting to a prelim final was a good effort. I was captain for a while too and that was a great honour at that age. I really enjoyed playing interleague football in those days and having the chance to play with all the good players of the league. I missed out in my first year but played 92,93 and 94. Ultimately though it’s the friendship and being part of something that is valued. These were my formative adult years and I was lucky to be at such a club.
Following your time at Redan, did you go on to play more football and what were some of the highlights?
I did my knee early in 1994 very badly at Daylesford and didn’t really think about playing again for a while. But eventually I was keen to have one more crack at footy and was living in Coburg at that stage so trained for 15 months to try to make the list and play for Coburg in VFL. That was the 1999 season. (A long time ago) I was very keen to play at that level.
I played maybe ten senior games under Steve MacPherson. Thought the next year of playing in the VAFA but became assistant coach of Calder U/18’s after doing some development coaching throughout the year in 99. They were also based at Coburg City Oval.
I began working for Calder full time as Development manager at the end of 2000 and then was Regional Manager of the Cannons in 2004 until I moved back to Ballarat at the start of 08 to work at SPC. Calder played in four Grand Finals in a row winning three and loosing by one point in 2002.
Along the way I was assistant coach and chairman of selectors for U/16 and U/18 Vic Metro and did plenty of other things in talent development. I’ve been lucky to be involved with a lot of junior talent that have been very significant players at AFL level. Too many to mention. I’ve been a coach or assistant coach at every level of the footy pathway from the VFL back down to Auskick during that time.
What are you up to these days and do you still have an involvement with local footy?
My kids are at East as we live close by and I’m the coaching coordinator although like everyone not doing much at the moment. I’ve had a few leadership roles at St Pats but now just teaching in the Business/Humanities and PE faculties.
There have been plenty of St Patrick’s boys join the club in recent years, who are some that you’ve had the most do with?
Since I finished as Head of Sport at SPC I haven’t really had a lot to do with the football program unfortunately. I did play with Will Madden’s dad the mighty “Tractor” so that’s a good link and he even wears my old number. I really hope Cooper Craig Peters can stick at it and stay fit he will have a great career what ever he does.
I also was assistant coach at the VFL Roosters under Gerald Fitzgerald a couple of years back so always keen to watch Orren Stephenson, Lachie George, Grant Bell and Liam Hoy all of who I coached there.It’s great to see them doing so well at this level of footy and so hope they win a flag together. They are great people.
What advice do you have for the girls and boys starting their footy at Redan?
Enjoy the game with your mates.