Gary Hickey - My Redan Story
Where did you grow up and what were some of your earliest footy memories and highlights?
I grew up in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. Started playing footy at the age of 8 or 9 for a local club called St Damiens who were in the Doncaster District Junior Football League. Following that I played Under 19s with Macleod in the Diamond Valley Football League.
Did you play senior footy prior to joining Redan and were you lucky enough to play in any premierships?
Yes, as you would know I wasn’t the best footballer going around, but played footy right through until I was about 30. Began at Ivanhoe in the Amateurs, Uni Reds, Parade and then moved to Ballarat.
Who or what was it that saw you chose to play with Redan and what were your initial impressions of the club?
I moved to Ballarat for university at ACU and got a job at St Pats College in the boarding house. Marty Cusack was there at the time. I didn’t know anyone in Ballarat and the easiest way to do that was through footy. That’s how I ended up at Redan. It was a great place to be around, everyone was there for the same reason and there were no ‘egos’.
Tell us a little about you first Redan coach Marty Cusack?
I started in 1998 when Marty was coaching. He was terrific and just encouraged everyone to give it there best shot. We knew we were no good, but that didn’t matter. We did our best and enjoyed each others company off the field. The supporters and committee were all terrific as well, very staunch with a good sense of humour.
Tell us about some of the heroics you saw from Brendan O’Brien in those first couple of seasons?
Bobby was just a real goer. Never ever gave up. He was fit which helped, but had a real crack and a lovely guy.
What do you think was the key to keeping the side together to front up each week despite the heavy defeats and lack of success?
It was the ‘off the field’ stuff that kept the club together. I remember the first game in 1998 and for memory we played East. I was named ruck in the firsts, I had never ever played senior footy.
We got smashed and Flogga who was President at the time came into the rooms after the game with a slab. He put it in the middle of the rooms and said ‘don’t worry boys, were only one game off top spot and a bit of percentage’. It was brilliant and just indicative of what the place was like.
Who were some of the characters in the side that helped keep morale high during those seasons?
Flogga for a start. Ian Morelli, he came out with some pearlers. There were many characters. Mick ‘the bouncer’ who used to ride a bike with no brakes. Sometimes you’d play footy with blokes you’d never seen before, it was unreal.
What are your memories of the crisis meeting and tremendous work done by the Save the Lions committee?
That was a big night and a lot of hard work put in by a lot of real Redan people. The success that has come since owes a great deal to these people.
Barry Hills arrived in 1999 and that season saw the end of a four year long winless streak. What are your recollections of the match and the reaction of the crowd at the City Oval that day?
I played in the twos that day where I belonged. It was huge. I was actually at the Ballarat Base Hospital for the first half getting stitches, but returned late in the game. It was a big couple of days.
The following season Brett Quinlan took the helm and the wins started to build. Could you sense the club was about to witness such a golden era?
I don’t know about a golden era, but you could definitely sense some excitement.
What do you feel made Brett so successful as a Coach?
Quinna has the ability to talk and relate to anyone. He gave players confidence and they believed in what he was about. It was a shame that not many of the boys who were around when we nearly folded stayed on. There were different reasons, but it would have been good to see more stay on in some capacity.
How many wins would you have played in with Redan and what were some of your more memorable games with the maroon and gold?
I'm not sure. I played over 50 games and until 2001. I then broke my ankle. The twos had a few wins in 2000/2001.
How would you describe yourself as a player?
Very average, but did my best.
Who are the best five players you’ve seen in your time with the club and your toughest BFL opponent?
Dru Quinlan was a stand out for me. Sammy Ellis, Orren Stephenson and how could you go past Ash Barker - Freak! Luke Cooney had a magnificent year in 2002.
Opponents, I played on John Barnes against Melton one day at City Oval. He was a great bloke, they beat us by 40 or 50, but he was trying to help us. He came in for a beer to, which was good.
In 2002 you joined the Committee as Club Secretary and also undertook the Team Manager role. What are your recollections of the work the board did around this time and your proudest achievements?
The board was up and running at this time. We had structures in place and everyone had a role and worked well together. Led by Ian Cooney at the helm and Warwick Remington doing the finances. We were by no means out of trouble, but we were heading in the right direction and putting things in place. We also had magnificent support from the Past Players.
Your last interview with the Redan website saw you teaching in Northern Territory. What do you remember of this experience and did you see much football played while you were there?
Yeah I left Ballarat to go to the NT. I worked in Aboriginal communities for a couple of years. An experience that I'll never forget and may even do again at some stage.
What are some of your favourite memories of time spent at the Den or at club gatherings in general?
It was just a great place to be around. Sunday sessions were fantastic in the early 2000’s.
Tell us about some of the characters that have stuck with the club during the lean years and put in countless hours to ensure its survival?
How many of the subsequent premierships have you been able to see in person?
Haven't been to one, but would like to get back to Redan for sure. I got to a game and a function few years ago which was great.
Following your time with Redan, did you continue playing and what were some of the highlights?
No I didn’t play footy again.
Have you coached or are there any aspirations to do so in future?
No, I have been involved in clubs at a committee level. Was secretary of Bundoora Football Club in the Northern Football league. They have been a fairly successful club for a period of time.
What are you up to these days and are you still involved with football?
Teaching at a Catholic Secondary College in Melbourne. Am involved in helping out with Old Paradians Under 19s as team manager. We are struggling. Coached by former North Melbourne Premiership player Ian Fairley.
What advice do you have for the boys and girls starting their careers with Redan’s football and netball sides?
Whatever your chosen sport or hobby, just get out there and give it your best shot. Enjoy every minute of it and Redan's not a bad place to start. I'm glad I found Redan and hope to be back there one day.