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The two of them: 300 games for Fitzroy


Sam Buckley and Richard Willingham met as nine year olds in 1993 during the very first season of the fledgling Fitzroy Junior Football Club and theyve played together throughout their careers. This year Sam is coaching the Fitzroy Reserves team but will don the number 66 jumper for one last game on Monday to ensure he and his mate Richard play their 150th games for Fitzroy together. And what better day for a display of mateship than Anzac Day. The Red Roy asked them about their early memories of each other and how the partnership has evolved… in their own words….

Richard Willingham Fitzroy No 15

Whats your first memory of Sam on the football field?
Well it was 1993. Thats right nineteen-ninety-three. Id never meet him before and along with a bunch of other 9 and ten year olds we were thrust into the under 11s. Needless to say we got flogged every week. Its not the first memory but the enduring moment was of course that goal. The only goal the team kicked for the year was a mongrel punt from Bucks at from the western pocket of the school end of Alfred Crescent Oval that tumbled over the line.

It was like we won the world cup. More exciting was the fact that supporting fathers were nearly in tears. (*See Richards fathers write up of the magical goal down below).

We hear he could be a bit fiery on field how did that work for him?
Maybe not fiery, more lippy. As a known idiot, Bucks likes to tell every opponent about the flaws in their game. A personal highlight was when he gave some lip to a player from Rupertswood, who responded by rubbing mud in Buckseyes, much to the amusement of mates watching.

Does it feel strange to have him as your coach now?
It does feel odd that we arent out there together playing, but he brings the same passion to coaching as he does playing. I remember a time at Werribee during his last stint in 2009 when he went to shake the opposing, and victorious, coachs hand only to have the bloke try to pick a fight with him because our Bucks barracked too much.

What qualities do you think he brings to coaching which will be good for the club and his players?
Bucks has a genuine and obvious passion for the footy club, he also gets twos footy. It doesnt need to be complicated and at the end of the day it is about having a crack and being with mates. He also understands that it is about blokes striving to do their best. He recently told the group that he wants to play exciting attacking footy and if it doesnt pay off so be it, at least we tried. I like that.

What inspires players to stick with Fitzroy throughout their careers?
The people. The club. The ground. Without doubt Fitzroy home games are the best in the league, no one else gets the sort of local support. The footy is also of a high quality and the club isnt infected with massive egos and dickheads.

What are you hoping for on Monday?
Three big wins and a huge crowd embracing all things Fitzroy.

Do you intend to play out the season?

Sam Buckley, Reserves Coach, Fitzroy FC life member, No 66

What do you remember about Richard in the first year you played together?
He was playing fullback always, which is hard to believe now. Given his kicking technique and ability to kick horrible floaters, not sure why he was our designated kick-in specialist. Given he was playing in a team that only kicked one goal for the year, its fair to say he got to kick the ball in quite a bit….

Did you know each other before footy? Where did you meet?
Not that I recall. I think we would have just met at training. His dad was heavily involved in getting the club up and running and I think may have been our first coach or at least team manager.

After so long playing together you must have a good understanding of what hes likely to do on field is that useful as his coach?
Yeah, I think thats useful. I understand pretty well what he will do when he is playing. He is very tough and competitive and will always throw himself in 100 per cent. As a coach, I know I can rely on him to give his all whenever he is on the ground. I still dont like it when he kicks the ball though….

Is it hard to coach your mates?
Its interesting. I actually quite enjoy it. I get the sense that the boys enjoy me doing it and we have created a good buzz in the first few weeks. Im not afraid to give my mates and spray if need be and I think they have taken that well. It helps that I know them pretty well as footballers and I like to think Ill be able to help bring the best out in them.

Whats the best thing you and Richard have done together (that we can print!)?
For me its probably all the stuff outside of footy. I have very fond memories of a few nights out in New York, in London and times just down the beach smashing tins. Recently, we have had quite a few friendsweddings interstate and various others places and being able to share that with our mates has been pretty special.

What are you hoping for on Monday?
Most importantly three wins for the club. Especially in the 1s. Personally, Id like to not tear my hamstring and get at least one kick.

Will you feel sad once you take off the boots for the last time?
Not really. I have accepted that my time as a player is done. Im looking forward to helping out in other ways now off field and coaching. Still very much want to be involved, just not on the field!!

That first fateful goal

Sam Buckleys name is etched into the folklore of the Fitzroy Junior Football Club (FJFC) as the kicker of its first ever goal (and the only one scored in its first season.

The following is an extract by Graeme Willingham from his piece on The birth of Fitzroy Junior Football Club: 1993, in which he describes that very first goal.

Graeme was Fitzroy-Carlton Vickick Coordinator in 1992 and then a committee member and a coach at FJFC

The result: for weeks, never a goal was scored.

Well, not until that D-Day, Downpour Day.

Late in the game, from under their streaming umbrellas, the proud parents looked east through the rain. Suddenly, about CHF, one of the old brigade (an 11 year-old) threw the mud-leaden vinyl Sherrinon to his preferred left boot and off it went, bouncing, then skidding, spinning backwards, aqua-planing towards the gap between the tall white perpendiculars, never deviating off its originating line because it could find no traction in the sludge.

It was impossible from their behind-ball-angle 80 metres away and through the thick rain for the faithful adults to tell just how close the ball was sliding away from them towards the line, but they could see two opponents closing the gap on the escaping ball.

The defenders dived desperately at full length into the pools of grey goal square soup to affect an all-important touch. They couldnt be the team to let Fitzroy score its first goal. Heaven forbid! The shame!

The home team players close enough to see what was really happening threw their arms in the air in exultant hope as the sliding opponents showered mud over the sodden, but watchful goal umpire.

The crowdat the other end started to lift their feet from the glue, hearts pounding at the prospect.

In a split second, the moment was defined. A two-finger salute, of the football variety.

Fitzroy Junior Football Club had scored its first ever goal.

The Roy Boys were back in town!


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