It’s an historic weekend in Victorian football as we celebrate an outstanding achievement by North Ballarat coach Gerard FitzGerald.
North Ballarat’s home match against Frankston marks the 314th VFL game that FitzGerald has coached, in a career now spanning three decades.
And, in coaching this milestone game, FitzGerald will own the record for the most games coached in the 137-year history of the VFA/VFL competition.
Certainly, it puts the enormity of the accomplishment in perspective.
It’s an extraordinary career from FitzGerald, who began coaching North Ballarat in 1997. He spent one season coaching at Springvale (nee Casey Scorpions) and Port Melbourne, then another two seasons coaching TAC Cup team North Ballarat Rebels before returning ‘home’ to North Ballarat Roosters in 2007.
FitzGerald’s return to the club saw it enjoy a halcyon era where the Roosters won three successive premierships, a feat only previously achieved five times in the past 100 years.
But, it’s not only at club level where FitzGerald has been successful.
- CLICK HERE to listen to a podcast with Gerald FitzGerald and a number of guests, including Orren Stephenson, Gary Ayres and Simon Goosey
‘Fitzy’ coached Victoria to historic wins against South Australia and Western Australia, the first time in more than 50 years where Victoria had been successful against both states.
On top of all his on field success, FitzGerald has also been a wonderful ambassador for the Peter Jackson VFL and his club/s as well as the Ballarat community.
While we congratulate ‘Fitzy’ on his stunning accomplishment, the occasion also gives us time to reflect on the marvelous career of Bill Faul, the coach who held the record for 65 years.
Faul, like FitzGerald, was also a premiership coach at Prahran and Moorabbin. He also coached Northcote.
So highly thought of was Faul that once he finished coaching Moorabbin, South Melbourne appointed him as its coach, a position he held for two seasons.
Apart from his coaching career, Faul was a brilliant player as evidenced by the fact that he was runner-up behind Haydn Bunton in the Brownlow Medal, won a best and fairest at South Melbourne and named in both the Swans and Subiaco’s respective Team of the Century.
Is it a career that is deserving of AFL Hall Of Fame recognition?
Port Melbourne dual best and fairest winner and premiership player Sam Pleming also registers a significant milestone this weekend, when he plays his 200th VFL game – just the 47th player to reach 200 VFA/VFL games.
- CLICK HERE to view an interview with Pleming leading up to game 200
The achievements of FitzGerald and Pleming underscore what marvelous, rewarding and fulfilling careers can be enjoyed at the State League level.
Both men should be extremely proud and can reflect with much satisfaction on the imprint they’ve left on Victorian football.
The above is the editorial by Grant Williams in the VFL Record this weekend