THE RIVERSDALE SC “DREAM TEAM”: 1978 – 2008
For the Club’s 25th Anniversary in 2003, there was a proposition put to the Committee that we should try to organise a “Team of the Quarter Century”. At the time it was deemed that, being such a small club with sometimes scratchy historical records, it would be hard to do it justice and it would be too much of a subjective exercise, with the potential of perhaps insulting some of those who “missed out”. It was thus (understandably) put into the “too hard basket”.
Five years later, the concept is no less subjective, our historical records and memories no less scratchy and there has been another 5 years’ worth of players to potentially insult if they “miss out”.
But, what the hell, in the spirit of “Cool McCool” (“danger is my business”) let’s push on and do it anyway!
Of course, trying to find a group of people who could make a reasonable fist of comparing eras is exceedingly difficult. We have no video footage to fall back on and finding someone who has seen even the majority of our games since 1978 is near-impossible. Finding someone who has been around for a while and is unlikely to be nominated (or have a family member nominated) in one or more of the categories is almost as hard. So, in the end, we gave up on trying to find a panel who were able to be “seen to be impartial”, we just decided to trust that we would try and be as fair about it as we could.
Thus, our guides through the historical minefield of selective memories, overblown reputations and potential nepotism are as follows:
Has been at the club since 1990, with most of that time also spent on the Committee. In that time he has missed seeing only about 2-3 Senior games, and we suspect no-one has “worked closely” with more Coaches than Johnny. He is also not nominated in any of the categories, so is probably the most “impartial” person we could find at the club.
A player from the very earliest days of Riversdale into the early 1990s, Gordon is also a former President and regular Committee Member. Other than the odd season or two living in Darwin and overseas, Gordon has, since finishing his playing days, generally seen the majority of games played by the Firsts in every season since. One of the few people around the club who can reliably compare players of the “early days” with their recent and current counterparts.
Arrived at the club in 1992 and spent the next decade playing, coaching and being on the Committee, usually all at the same time. Longest-serving Coach in the Club’s history and has also kept a keen interest in the performances and players of the First Team ever since, mainly so he can tell all newcomers “you know I’m the only Coach to ever win a Senior Championship…”.
Also a player in the early years, first Coach to win any sort of Championship (Reserves in 1988) and later a Senior Coach and regular Committee member. Probably the most authoritative judge available to compare players, coaches and teams of the early years with those of the 1990s.
Played for a squillion years under nearly a squillion different Coaches, between the mid 1980s through to the turn of the century. He is probably the person who, after John and Gordon, has seen more Riversdale games than anyone else. If we had decent historical records, we would probably find he has also played more games than anyone else.
Another former President, Committee member and very-long-term player, Gregor is a professional historian who wrote the first History of Riversdale (1978-1988). He previously worked at the MCG’s Sports Museum and currently is the curator at Essendon Football Club’s “Hall of Fame”. Of course all this professional expertise is wasted on us lot, but it looks good to have him on board.
Of course, to undertake something like this it is important to have a few “guidelines” or it just degenerates into a rabble of arguments and counter-opinions (which it did anyway).
Here is the framework from which the Dream Team was selected:
Eligible players were those who played from 1978 until end of the 2007 season (first 30 seasons);
They had to have played the “best part” of at least 2 seasons (i.e.: 2 seasons give or take missing some games from injury, etc.). Thus “one-season wonders”, however good, were not be included. This was a “general” rule rather than “hard and fast” but to be honest it was not really that critical and probably a bit redundant, as it was hard to be nominated if you didn’t play for a significant number of games;
We aimed to nominate about 3 times the number of players per “positional heading” compared to the number being named in the final team. For example: if we named 2 strikers in the Dream Team, then we aimed to have 6 “nominees” from which to choose the final 2. This was not adhered to 100%, but we got pretty close;
Team positions were based on a 4-4-2 system, which has been by far the most prevalent system used throughout the Club’s first 30 years;
Players were judged on their performances for Riversdale rather than over their general football career. Thus, players who may have had glittering careers elsewhere and were perhaps a “class above” some of those nominated/selected, were only included if they performed well while at Riversdale;
To maintain some form of impartiality, if one of the judging panel or one of their family members was nominated for a position, that member of the panel was excluded from the final discussion and voting for that position;
The general Positional headings used were as follows:
3 nominees, 1 chosen; 2nd-best named as “Reserve keeper” on the bench.
We initially were going to break this group up into “sweepers”, “full-backs” and “centre backs” but found that many of the nominees had played significant amounts of games in a number of defensive roles, so we decided to just pool them all and select our “best back four” from the pool.
11 nominees, 4 chosen.
Again, we initially thought we would have two categories of “central midfielders” and “wingers/wide midfielders” but decided to also group them together and choose our best “engine room” from the overall pool.
14 nominees, 4 chosen
Our original aim was to have 6 nominees with 2 chosen, but it was very hard to trim the final shortlist to just 6, so we just went with a few extra nominees (10), as it was too hard to separate them.
This category is for players who played in numerous positions who thus did not easily fit into one of the above categories. Again, it was hard to limit the nominees to just 3, so we just left our longish “short list” as it was.
5 nominated, 1 chosen. Chosen player from this category named as the first “sub” on the bench;
3 chosen; one from each broad/general category of “defenders”, “midfielders” and “strikers”.
This category was for those considered to be the best defender, midfielder and striker who did not make the “starting eleven”. Named as the other 3 substitutes on the bench.
4 nominees, 1 chosen; 2nd-best named as “Assistant Coach”.
So, for better or worse, here are the nominees for the Riversdale SC “Dream Team 1978-2008”.
Of course, with all these types of exercises there are plenty of good players that could have been included and missed out. If you are not listed here, we apologise! It could be that you were a great player who was greatly under-appreciated, or that one or more of the selection panel has a grudge against you. But most probably it’s because …. you really weren’t that good.
NOMINEES (in the chronological order of when they played for the club):
The early days of RSC were generally characterised by the archetypal “outfield player forced to play in goals” kind of keeper. It wasn’t really until Luis Walmaggia came along that we got a “proper” goalkeeper and probably quite a few years later (the mid-90s) until we got a keeper with a decent pedigree (Chris Muldoon). Since then, we have probably had something of an “embarrassment of riches”, with most of our subsequent keepers being more than capable. The pick of the crop:
Spent most of his early days at Riversdale as an outfield player, pretending he was Eric Cantona in midfield or Ned Zelic at sweeper. As his recruiting drive as Coach in the mid-90s unearthed a score of very good players, he could no longer justify a game on the field, so was forced back into goals, where he had played in the Victorian Premier League some years earlier. Played every game in the 1997 Championship season, while also the Coach. Not what you would call flashy, but a good organiser of defences (well, he yelled a lot anyway….) and solid, with a knack of making good saves at critical times.
Reluctantly drafted into playing in goals when brother Emil injured a knee in mid-1996. Having spent the previous year or so slogging around on the field in the Rezzies, and about 5 years since he had played in goals, Mark then proceeded (with little or no goalkeeper training and “doing it from memory”) to immediately play the next 9 games and 70 minutes without conceding a goal! Of course his “memory’ was better than most, having played at National League level and a number of years in the Victorian Premier League. The next year he happily went back to kicking people in the Seconds, and did not play in the ensuing Senior Championship. But, in following years, played a couple of very good seasons for the Firsts, culminating in winning a Best and Fairest in 1998. Was capable of some breathtaking saves and quite incredible goalkeeping feats, such as saving 3 penalties in one HALF against Mitcham one year (and keeping a clean sheet for 880 consecutive minutes of course… ).
A couple of years ago on the Victorian Soccer online forum, there was a thread that asked the question “best goalkeeper in Provisional League 1?” It was no surprise to us that many of the respondents (from other clubs) voted for “Riversdale Ginger”. Many at the club also rate him as the best keeper we have had. Others continue to have mock arguments as to whether he is the “second or third best“ keeper in the club’s history…. But seriously, he has always polled well in the Best and Fairest Awards, which says a lot, as we were usually doing pretty well as a team while he was around, and custodians are not always the first ones given votes when the team is winning. Really no weaknesses, a great all-round keeper who had many a “blinder” between the sticks.
While working on the nominees for the back four, we were struck by just how many good defenders we have had over the years, many of whom have interestingly lasted at the club for many, many years. Must be something about the simplicity of having the game in front of you and just concentrating on doing a job: stopping your opponent scoring.
Regarded by many as the “Father of the Club”, Noel was President in the “very early” days and made the full-back position all his own for a number of years. The archetypal nuggety, annoying fullback with plenty of football smarts.
Started his career as a striker then, as often happens when good players slow down a bit, slowly receded into the midfield and ended up as a sweeper towards the end of his career. Self-confident and a commanding presence at the back, he was also a good organiser (as befits someone who took on the Coach’s job at the age of nineteen… no, really…) and something of a “hard man”, but with good anticipation and skills thrown in.
The only player to ever win 3 Best & Fairest Awards at Riversdale, Steve arrived from Box Hill in the early 1980s and remained an ever-present for a number of years until a couple of knee operations put paid to his career in the early 1990s. A traditional style “centre half” who was good in the air, close-marking and hard in the tackle, but also with a touch of no-frills class with the ball at his feet. Those who played with him in the early years say he was peerless as an all-round defender. While playing in a team and level in which most players had some flaw in their game, Clarkey stood out as he had no weaknesses. Won his B&F’s at a time when we had more than our fair share of classy players.
Had two stints at Riversdale as player-coach in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The former Middlesborough apprentice was another very good organizer and reader of the game from the sweeper’s position. Should have won a League Best and Fairest as he collected the most votes in 1988, but was ineligible due to having been sent off during the season, but nonetheless won the Club’s B&F in that year. Classy.
Argentinian-born Wally was the “silent assassin”. Didn’t say much on or off the field, just tackled hard… very, very hard… and was virtually never beaten in a 50-50 or even a 40-60 challenge. Played quite a bit at stopper, but probably played more on the left side, mainly because his left foot wasn’t quite as bad as Rob McPhee’s. Was also quite good value going forward, as he often got into dangerous positions and was fit enough to recover and get back. Impeccably fair, but usually had a 10-metre exclusion zone around him at training, as no-one that wanted to play on the weekend would dare go near him, in case he tackled them. Always the Coach’s “first-picked”, he was a permanent fixture for the best part of a decade from late 1980s onwards, winning two Best & Fairests. Ironically (and just a touch tragically), he took a year off in 1997 when we got up to win the “big one”.
If you want frills, you’ve come to the wrong man…. but if you want a “thou shalt not pass” full-back, Rob McPhee is your man. An ever-present at the back, he played in all positions of the back four, but was probably best known for holding down the right-back position for many, many years, from the late 80s into the new Millenium. He also had occasional forays into midfield and up front, and had an amazing strike-rate in his relatively few games as a striker. Not overly-inclined to go forward as an overlapping full-back, Rob was more inclined to “mark the space” in a before-his-time zonal defensive tactic, waiting for an opponent to arrive. But this made him a good counter-balance for his “go forward at the drop of a hat” back-four team-mates such as Walter Walmaggia, Martin Witheford and Steve Kakantonis. Seemed to play for years and years and hated missing a game, no matter how injured he was. Would probably still be patrolling the right side now if his dodgy hammies hadn’t finally given up the ghost in his early forties. Was always in the top few in the Best & Fairest award, winning it in 1993. Flashy?…no. Effective?… none better.
The traditional view of the full-back is of a small, nuggety, quick player with terrier-like qualities. Martin was poles apart from this archetype: well over six foot, as good in the air as a centre back (where he often played) but still happy to go loping down the wing into attacking positions. He was very dangerous from set-pieces, from which he regularly scored with the head, had a cultured left foot and a really long throw that we used to advantage offensively. Off the park, he pursued a musical career with a number of bands and started the “Silvertale” fanzine which now lives on in electronic form on the website.
Steve arrived in the mid-90s with an impressive soccer CV, which included 150-odd National League games for South Melbourne and Footscray. Never having won a Championship at any level, he was lured to us by the potential of finally winning a flag in the twilight of his career. As a stopper, Kaka was a very good “libero” or “holding midfielder”…. not what you would call a “close-marking” centre back! Whether playing at sweeper or stopper, he would often gallop off up the field with the ball, but seldom got into trouble due to his inherent class. Missed a significant number of games due to injury and especially suspension. His cries of “I never touched him ref” were a source of regular amusement among the Riversdale supporters, as you could usually hear the “crunch” of a Kakantonis tackle on the Riversdale Road tram. But, when he was playing, he was quite inspirational, never letting his team-mates “get away” with a half-hearted performance. Everyone walked a little bit taller with Kaka in the team.
If you think that as a coach Stu McArthur is a little bit volatile, then having him as a team-mate was in another stratosphere on the “excitability” scale. Initially playing in midfield, a chronic groin problem (the “osteitis pubis” syndrome had not really been widely recognised at that time) curtailed his ability to do a lot of running, so he was restricted to playing at sweeper. Strangely, he didn’t really say too much in the way of organizing the defense, he would just silently read the play and arrive just in time to snuff out opposition forward thrusts, a pasty-faced ghost in a blue strip, gliding in to nip the ball away and whisk it onto the foot of a team-mate further up field. It was in arguments with his team-mates and referees that he was most vocal of course, with team-mates, opponents, supporters and referees alike being regularly told to “take a good look in the mirror!”. Missed 7 games through injury and suspension in the 1997 Senior Championship team and still won the Best & Fairest, so when he was playing he was quality.
Along with Stu McArthur, Kourtis was notable for being one of the few really classy sweepers, who almost always tried to play the ball out from the back, forcing his team-mates to play good football from the last line of defense, rather than just hoofing it up field. Of course, this being the Provisional League, not all of his team-mates were always on the same wavelength or up to the task, so we were prone to copping the occasional “clanger” at his expense. Another fierce competitor who became club captain, he hated to lose, and his high pitched call of “what’s going on?” became something of a catchcry among the Riversdale faithful.
When he first came to the club in the late 1990s he was an exceptionally good stopper. Very quick for someone his height, a hard tackler, good in the air and fearless. He also took the Clint Eastwood phrase to heart about “a man’s got to know his limitations”: did his job, didn’t try anything too fancy and won a Best & Fairest in 2003, as well as becoming club Captain. A string of injuries robbed him of consistency late in his time at the ‘Dales, but at his prime was a quality man-marker.
As you would expect, most of these midfielders tended to be rotated through a number of positions, so we just nominated the 12 best midfielders and then, when deciding on who should be named in the Dream Team midfield, just tried to pick who we thought had been the best player in that particular position from the nominees available. Strangely, it was harder to pick out the quality midfielders than it was to compile a list of either defenders or strikers. So, although strikers are the “money men” in football, it seems that finding high quality midfielders (at Provisional League level anyway) can be difficult.
Player-coach in the first 2 years of the club when we were called “G.Kennon”, Dave was a former Wolverhampton Wanderers apprentice who many regard as the best player in Riversdale’s first decade of existence. Was the modern style “holding midfielder” about 2 decades before anyone knew what that was. Played it simple and brought others into the game, despite possessing tons of skill himself. Unfortunately, he went back to England after winning the B&F in 1979 so only graced the park for barely a couple of seasons.
Played for a number of years from the very early days into the late 1980s. Was a goal-scoring midfielder who played both in the middle and out wide, winning 2 B&Fs in 1981 and 1982. Is probably best remembered by those who played with him as being the “jinky” winger type who skinned wide defenders at will and knocked in quality crosses, although he also played quite a bit of his football in the middle of the park.
Adrian was a will-o-the-wisp 22-year-old when he arrived at the club, and looking like a little kid, was made to play in the Rezzies for a few weeks before finally getting a run in the Firsts. From there, he went from strength to strength, not only winning the club Best & Fairest in 1985, but also the Best Player Award for not just our league, but ALL of the Industrial & Amateur Leagues that season (comprising 9 leagues and 90 teams!). In those days, the Leagues would select a “representative team” from the entire league to play in a round-robin tournament against other leagues over a long weekend. Harvey was also one of the few Riversdale players picked for this representative team. Over 20 years later, he is still the only Riversdale player to win a League B&F.
Coming across from Box Hill with good mate Scott Patterson in the 1980 season, Robert was a solid midfield contributor in the early-to-mid 1980s. Was known for his tough tackling, his main claim to fame was being chased by an opposition player wielding a corner flag and then being pursued in a high-speed car chase by opposition players and supporters after the game! But, he was also the only player other than Adrian Harvey to be chosen to represent The Industrial & Amateur League in the inter-league carnival. Sadly, Robert was killed in a tractor accident on his hobby farm in the 1990s.
Also played quite a bit up front, being top-scorer in both 1982 and 1983 but often also played large chunks of his football in midfield, which never seemed to affect his goalscoring exploits. Won the B&F in 1983 and was one of the the really outstanding players of the mid-80s.
Played some of his football as a striker, but was a terrific wide midfielder with the ability to skin defenders with ease. Unfortunately, was also loathe to pass too often, prompting Coach Peter Jencik to once admonish him saying “Denis, you can beat the first, second and third defender, but when it comes to the fourth and fifth, I’d rather you just passed the ball and didn’t take them on”. To which Denis replied incredulously “..but Peter, what about the fans?!….” Great fun and a good player.
From the early-to-mid 1990s Sandro made the centre circle his own. Short and stocky and with good skills, once he had the ball, it was almost impossible to get it off him without a chainsaw and some capsicum spray. Not the quickest bloke to put on a Riversdale shirt, and had trouble knocking the ball more than about 25 metres, but was a good link man in the “middlefield” as he liked to call it. Which was quite apt, as he tended to patrol only about a 20-metre radius around the centre circle. Box to box? Nope. But a good player nonetheless.
Irish Liam was around through the early to mid-1990s. If Sandro was not the type to go “box-to-box” it was probably because Liam was there to do enough running for both of them. The archetypal midfield “workhorse”, Liam just ran and ran and put himself into tackles and challenges with great gusto. Passing was not his strong point, but he scored his fair share of goals by getting himself into dangerous positions with his speed and running ability.
Recruited from the Lygon Street TAB (yes, really…) at the start of 1996, Azza was initially a wide midfielder and then switched to the middle in the 1997 Championship season. Needed a knee reconstruction in mid-1998 when he was in incredible form as player-coach, then had his leg broken by a cynical tackle a couple of years later after he had come back and started to show similar form at sweeper. Watching Dave play after these injuries had taken their toll, it was easy to forget just how good he’d been in the mid-90s as one of the driving forces in the “engine room”. Hardly ever put a foot wrong in the middle. He was also very dangerous from corners and set-pieces, almost scoring a hat-trick of goals direct from corners one windy day at Keon Park. Having beaten the hapless Keon Park keeper twice in about five minutes, a third corner was also destined to go in, but with the ball having cleared the goalie, Kaka thought he’d “finish it off” on the goal line, misjudged it in the wind and only managed to get the ball to hit him in the side of the head, ballooning it onto the bar and out to safety! Quality.
Strangely, it was hard to find a lot of really good, truly left-sided midfielders to nominate. Kevin is not someone who immediately springs to mind as one of the “guns” of Riversdale, but those who played with him in the mid-90s, including the Championship-winning year, know how good he was and how important he was to the team. He had something of a shuffling, somewhat awkward style reminiscent of Tottenham’s Chris Waddle, but really had no flaws and had a knack of popping up to score very important goals. Would track and chase down much younger opponents and then rebound to link up quickly with the strikers. Also, unlike many wide midfielders, he coped well in “heavy traffic”, was tough as nails, and could take and dish out a bit of “punishment” if necessary.
A former Captain of the Heidelberg United Youth team and junior Victorian representative, Billy gave the game away at an early age. Luckily for us, he was coaxed out of retirement by his mate Con Loukos and they wandered into the club at the start of 1996, with Billy going on to win the B&F later that year. Short and strongly-built, Billy had a fierce competitiveness that was tailor-made for the centre of midfield. Formed a formidable combination with Dave Azzopardi in the “engine room” and, like Steve Kaka, would make sure he dragged the best out of his team-mates. His passing could occasionally be a bit scratchy, but his tackling and ball-winning ability was without peer.
A proven votegetter at South Yarra where he won more than one League B&F, Davey was well into his 30s when he came across to the Dales in the late 1990s. But if we thought his best years were behind him, we had to think again. The evergreen ginger greyhound continued to buzz around the midfield for many years to come, winning the B&F as recently as 2006 and even now refuses to “take the hint” that his First team career may be over. If your life depended on beating the keeper one-on-one or hitting a 10-yard pass to one of our blokes, you wouldn’t ask him to step up for you. But for sheer work rate, effort and enthusiasm there was (and perhaps still is) no-one near him.
Ricky arrived around the turn of the century and immediately showed what class he had. Bags of skill and a knack for popping up from midfield to score goals, in stature and style he was the “Maradona-type” of number 10, playing just behind the forwards, creating openings with clever passing and the ability to beat players. Won the B&F in 2004 and was the “touch of class” that saw us come very close to promotion in 2003 and 2004, under Carlos Retre. Some injuries and an inability to train as regularly due to work and other commitments meant that his form dropped off in later years, but early on he was dynamite and a truly nice bloke on and off the field.
Steve has played in so many positions that even he is not sure where he fits, but probably has played marginally more in the midfield (so far). Deserves to be nominated as one of our better midfielders. For more detail, see the “Utility Players” section.
They say good strikers are hard to find, but unlike the midfielders, we had no trouble remembering and listing any number of good goalscorers, the real difficulty being who to leave out of the nominations.
“Sniffer” Jencik was an incredible goalscorer in the early years of the club, being top-scorer 3 years in a row from 1979 through 1981. Probably was also top-scorer in 1978 as well, but records were not really kept very accurately in the first year or two. Once scored an incredible 33 goals in one season, quite amazing considering they were 18-round seasons in those days! Continued to rack up many goals for a number of years afterwards as well.
Also nominated in the Midfield category, it was often hard to decide whether he was an out-and-out striker or an attacking midfielder due to his work-rate. But being top scorer in both 1982 and 1983 means he has to get a nomination in this category also.
When he first arrived at the club in the late 1980s, Danny was a sensational striker, being top-scorer 2 years in a row. He then went off to play in higher leagues, before returning about a decade later to again play up front and also making a “cameo” appearance in 2002, to score some important goals to help us avoid relegation. As his career went on he developed a reputation for never passing and also made a habit of being sent off fairly regularly, but was very dangerous and a prolific goalscorer.
A very quick young player who scored a lot of goals in the early 1990s. Only Pana could rival him for some of the “cracking” goals he scored, but unlike Pana they were usually not “wonder strikes” but incredible runs where he beat defender after defender and then slotted home. Top scorer in 1992, Ray scored a memorable hatrick in less than a half against Oakleigh Suburbs after being named on the bench. Fuming at being omitted from the starting line-up, he came on 10 minutes into second half and scored 3 crackers, bringing us back to 3-3 after being 3-0 down.
Arriving in the middle of 1993 when we looked certainties for relegation, Tim virtually single-handed helped us avoid the drop with a swag of goals. Was given the coaching job the next year and his coaching philosophy was fairly simple: “kick it long over the top for me to run onto and score”. Not exactly tactical genius, but it was effective enough that he scored 28 goals that year, tying as the league’s top scorer and finishing second in the League’s B&F. Ironically, did not win the club’s B&F that year, which probably reflected that he was not necessarily the most (ahem) popular player to pull on a Riversdale shirt.
Was only around a couple of years before moving interstate, but Aaron was top scorer in 1995 and 1996 and somewhat unique at our club at the time: a First team player under 25! Was a really clever player with a good football brain, who didn’t mind telling Coach Emil what he was doing wrong tactically! A great finisher.
Aah Pana! Top scorer in the Championship year despite starting quite a few games on the bench due to his patchy training appearances. Scored 3 or 4 of the best goals ever seen at Riversdale, such that the incredible became commonplace. No-one who was there will ever forget his goal against our arch enemies Templestowe, when he scored direct from the kick-off for a stunning winner, after they had equalized with 30 seconds left to play. Two weeks later against Berwick, the opposition keeper miscued a drop-kick, which hit Pana directly on the chest near the centre circle. As it dropped from his chest he hit it first-time on the half-volley straight back over the keeper’s head for a 2-1 win. The Riversdale supporters, having seen the Templestowe winner 2 weeks earlier, just stifled mock yawns and said “we’ve seen better”. Also scored the equaliser in the last game of the season that won us the Championship. Any number of great goals, too numerous to mention and an artist to watch when on the ball. Others have scored more goals more often, but no-one’s best was as good as Pana’s.
Something of a man-mountain at 6 foot 4 and about 100 kilos, Pete was nonetheless very agile and deceptively quick. Was a great target man and the perfect foil for John Panagopoulos in the mid-90s, as he was well-known as a proven goal-scorer, so opposition teams would be looking for him, allowing Pana to sneak “under the radar”. Had a thunderous shot and his size made him difficult to cope with in the air, even though we used to rib him about being “six-foot-four standing and five-foot-ten jumping”. Only scored one goal less than Pana in the Championship year and was outright top-scorer himself the following year in 1998.
Played fairly often in midfield, but up front was quite incredible as a goalscorer. Was both Top Goalscorer and B&F winner in 2000 and 2002 and it’s fair to say that without his goals in these years, we would probably have been relegated. Also the scorer of the “fastest goal ever”, hitting the onion bag only 7 seconds after kick-off against Mitcham one year (we have it on film too!). His great asset was his speed, so his form dropped off when a grumbling knee injury slowed him down in later years, but he still showed patches of his earlier form from time to time when fit enough.
Top scorer in 2003 and 2004 when we came agonizingly close to winning promotion to the State League, Marian also finished very high up in the B&F awards. Was strong and fast and a great finisher, but also a good all-round player.
When it comes to picking teams like this, some players are just too versatile for their own good, so it was hard to pin down whether they should be nominated in the defender, midfielder or striker categories. So we decided they should have their own category. Here it is;
Played up front in the early days and was equal-top goalscorer in 1980 with his brother Peter. Then played at times in midfield and full-back before finishing his career as an excellent sweeper and central defender. Was also called upon to play in goals at times when the first-choice goalie was not available and proved to be a more than capable custodian. Was also player-coach for 3 years, so Steve was truly “Mr. Versatility”.
Equal-top Goalscorer in 1996, Peter played his early Riversdale soccer up front, but also was a regular midfielder due to his good aerobic fitness. He played right across the midfield and occasionally at sweeper, before playing every game in the 1997 Championship year as a Centre Back, where his skill and control helped the midfield to play some great football, as he was able to turn defence into attack with thoughtful passes rather than the usual Stopper’s “hoof up the field”.
Starting out as a striker and midfielder in 1996-97, Con has had an on-again-off-again relationship with training, the midfield and the First Team ever since. In recent years, like many clever midfielders, has reinvented himself as a sweeper, for which he is well-suited (less running there than anywhere else!…). A genuine utility player who had so much class to begin with that he’s still going around now.
As Player-Coach, Carlos, although at the end of his playing career, did play some good football when he was needed, in his traditional role as a striker (which had previously taken him to National League level), but also as a central midfielder and sweeper.
Since arriving at the club in the early 2000s, the quiet and unassuming Steve Weller has consistently played well, whether at sweeper, stopper, “holding” midfielder, wide midfielder or wherever he was needed. Won the 2007 B&F by a country mile and is always up amongst the top vote-getters. More consistent than anyone we can remember.
Until fairly recently, the Club’s Coach usually looked after both the Firsts and Reserves, usually with a bit of part-time help from a Senior player. In the recent climate of designated Reserves Coaches, Assistants and Goalkeeping Coaches, it is important to remember that the Coaches of previous eras often had lousy training facilities and floodlighting to contend with, little or no remuneration and had to look after both squads more or less on their own. Almost makes you misty-eyed …. until you remember how the bastards used to yell at you!
Consider this: Steve Jencik was 19 years of age when he took on the player-Coach’s role in 1980. He stayed at the helm for 3 years and won the Club’s first “unofficial” championship in 1980, finishing on top. But we were then stripped of the title after having points deducted for playing Scott Patterson under an assumed name. By all accounts was a hard task-master, even at such a tender age, and his pre-seasons were legendary for their toughness.
Winning the club’s first-ever Championship of any description, the likeable Pete Jencik took the Reserves to the 1988 Championship. He had a short stint as “caretaker” in 1990, helping us out of relegation trouble, then was given the top job “for good” in late 1991 when Dave Dixon resigned. Took the Firsts to runners-up and promotion in 1992 and was able to “steady the ship” after a scratchy start in 1993 saw us in early relegation trouble.
In case he hasn’t told you already, he’s the only Coach to have coached a Senior Riversdale Championship team, and did it while also playing every game in goals. Took the Firsts to Runners-up in 1996 and successive promotions in 1996 and 1997 and the Rezzies were also Champions in 1997 and Runners-up in 1995 and 1996. He is the first to confess he had a terrific squad, although some of them were recruited by him, and recruiting them is one thing, keeping them happy is another: if you have 4 or 5 guys who have played at National League or Premier League level in your squad, if you don’t know what you are talking about, you get found out pretty quickly. The club’s longest-serving Coach, he also had the good sense to “quit while he was ahead” at the end of 1997.
Although his time at the club is seen by some as something of an “opportunity missed”, it should be said that Carlos did take the club to their highest-ever finish of 4th in Provisional League 1 in 2004. Although he had a pretty good squad of players, some of whom were being paid, and plenty of help in the Assistant Coach and Reserve Coach areas, we ultimately missed out on promotion. But we played some very good football at times and he came closer than anyone to taking the club into the State League, with only a couple of late-season fade-outs costing us promotion in 2003 and 2004.
THE RIVERSDALE SC “DREAM TEAM”: 1978 – 2008
Steve Weller (Utility)
Steve Jencik (Defender)
Dave Humphreyson (Midfield)
Tim McKenzie (Striker)
Peter Maddox (Reserve Goalkeeper)