John Burt - My Redan Story
What are some of your earliest football memories and highlights of your junior career?
My earliest memories of my involvement with football goes back to the 1950’s watching Redan play mainly on the City Oval. Cousin Ian Burt played in those times and the Burt Family were there to support him. I was only five at the time when Ian first played under Jack Nuttall and Gary English were the Coaches.
Ian went down to Essendon and played a number of games on permit with them. I started playing the game at Urquhart Street Primary School. Sportsmaster at that time was Mr Phose O’Loughlan and the Coach Was Mr Emerson who was the Grade Six teacher. I loved it and would cry if we were beaten by another school.
Who were some of the junior coaches who had the biggest impact on your career?
My involvement with Redan was with the Under 14 side. Coach was Austin Young. I played two years U/14 and won the Best and Fairest in that Grade. Went on to play U/16 with Tom Sarah as Coach. Won a Best and Fairest. From U/16 I went up to the Seniors.
The coach was Bud Annand and the Reserves Coach was Max Lyle. I played six games in the reserves before my first game as a 15 year old in the Seniors against East Ballarat on the Eastern Oval. The Thursday night before that Game both Bud Annand and Max Lyle came to our house to tell me I had been selected for my first game. Both Mum and Dad were there and were very pleased for me.
What can you recall of your first senior game with Redan?
I cannot remember much about that game at all. I think we won but I was so pleased to be playing. Mike O’Brien followed Bud as Coach. Redan had some good teams in those times but we never quite good enough to win the ultimate.
I was at Redan from 1965 to 1968. After finishing my Teacher Training I played a year at Boort in the North Central League winning a Best and Fairest there. In 1970 I played with Watchem/Corrack in N/C League and played Inter League football there.
In 1971 I was Coach of Cressy in the Western Plains League.
You were appointed club captain in 1973, tell us about that experience and what it taught you.
I returned to Redan in 1972 and in 1973 I was appointed Captain with Barry Smart as non playing Coach. I don’t think we won a game for the year. My memory is that we all enjoyed the Club even without success on the field. It was a great learning curve for us all because we couldn’t accept that not winning was normal.
Tell us about the arrival of John Northey. Can you recall some of the initial changes he made in those early stages that helped set the playing group on its path to premiership success?
John Northey arrived as playing Coach in 1974. Immediately there was a change of direction and atmosphere around the place. John had this ability to make you believe in yourself and your teammates. He was very much a players coach. His ability to lead was exceptional.
He did this by creating players to be better than they were. His game plan was simple. We must do everything to control the ball and therefore the game. If the opposition got the ball then we had to get it back quickly.
It wasn’t rocket science but we all responded to John because of the respect and discipline that he demanded. The old saying of you would run through a brick wall for him was very appropriate.
Can you clearly remember each of the three premierships individually and what are some of your favourite memories of those victories?
Winning the first Premiership in 1975 was unbelievable. More interesting was the way we won it with Doc Hepper kicking a goal after the siren had sounded.Truly amazing.But then we went on to win three in a row. All credit to the great man John Northey.
In 1975 our Identical Twin boys were our in August. Ashley and Adrian used to take in turn to sleep.So during the Finals because I wasn’t getting much sleep I asked the good Doc Hepper something to assist with this situation. His answer was simple : “shut your eyes and count sheep in the make believe paddock” Thanks Doc.
I really enjoyed the three premiership games.The game at the City oval against North Ballarat was significant to me. I just loved playing on the City Oval.
What was it about John that made him such a great coach and was it obvious to you then he was destined to coach at the highest level?
It was very obvious that John Northey would go on to be a very successful Coach at the highest level. His personal record is second to none. It would have capped off his outstanding football career if he could have won a premiership in the AFL. However it not all about premierships it is about the helping players achieve their potential and create teams that work together for the common good of that team. He was able to do this wherever he went.
You managed to win three Dalton-Bayly medals during your time which is a remarkable achievement. Is there a particular season that really stands out as the one where you played your best football?
Winning The Dalton/Bayly Trophy was a real honour. Winning it in 1973 when we didn’t win a game to winning it 1975 when we won the premiership was just terrific. So 1975 was a stand out year for me. 1978 was also a good year for me personally.
Who were the best five players you played with at Redan and your toughest opponent?
The five best players I played with were: John Northey, Graeme Gellie, Ron Andrews, Robert Stewart and David Jenkins. My hardest opponent would be Gary Tolliday and Robert Grub from East and Point respectively. This was because they were both rather rotund and were hard to get around.
Describe yourself as a player.
As a player I was a good ordinary player who tried to be consistent and always do the team things. I just loved the team aspect of this wonderful game.
You were Senior Coach of the club in 1989 and 1990. While the side didn’t win a lot of games during those two seasons, were there some other aspects of the role which you enjoyed?
Before coming back to Redan as Coach in 1989 I had Coached East Ballarat the two years before. In both roles I saw myself as a development person who needed to get the young men to start believing in themselves. I think the year I left East they one a premiership. So seeing players grow and get confidence was a pleasing aspect of my four years as a senior coach.
Redan was and will always be my team so I was very fortunate to have that wonderful experience.
Being a member of both the Redan Hall of Fame and be part of the Team of the Century to me is a great honour.
What do you make of Redan’s transformation since the 1990s into a club that managed to win six premierships in ten seasons?
The Club's time during the 2000’s is a credit to all who drove that period of time. The Committee, Players and Supporters are to be congratulated for what they achieved. The record speaks for itself and Redan has a very proud history.
What similarities can you see between the culture of the Redan you first walked into as a junior player to the one we see today?
Life and football have changed dramatically over the years. Nothing stays the same. So when I first got involved in my football the whole world centred around the Western and City Ovals. Today because of our mobility and affluence the world is so small.
What do you enjoy most about the premiership reunions?
We cannot live in the past but it is good to get together at Reunions to remember the past and the great qualities human beings have. We should share our life’s experiences and constantly remind ourselves of those who not with us today. We are here for a short time but we should never forget our roots and where we came from.
Away from football you have served as Mayor of Ballarat, Principal of the Ballarat Specialist School and been awarded an OAM. Share with us some insight into those experiences.
I have had a very fortunate life. My career in education has been very rewarding for me. My time at Ballarat Specialist School was just fantastic. It was like playing or coaching a game of football. Seeing young people grow and reach their potential is what it is all about. Service to our fellow man is a privilege, not a right must be something we earn, not expect. It is not about getting Awards but knowing you are doing the best you can for our community and society.
My time as mayor and serving on Ballarat City Council was very frustrating and caused great concern for me. Teamwork and striving to do the best for city was my priority always. But logistics and egos of some individuals prevented things from happening. the experience was fascinating to say the least but it wasn’t one the will be high on my successes.
What are you doing with yourself these days and do you still get along to see the side play?
Retirement is again an interesting part of life. One should be very grateful to be able to enjoy the joys or retirement and I am. I do not see many games of local football. My family is spread over Victoria and we spend a lot of time at the beach at weekends.
What advice do you have for the junior boys and girls starting their football careers with Redan?
My advice to young people starting their careers is very simple. Make sure you enjoy every moment. It doesn’t last forever so make the most of it.
Football could be used as an analogy for the journey of life. You lose more than you win and that is a very important lesson in itself.
Remember: “Like the Redanies of old be Strong and be bold”
John C Burt OAM