Bruce Bowles - 20 Years at SFC
In 1962 there was a special moment for the Sandringham Football Club, no it was not the Zebras reaching yet another grand final, it was a local five-year-old boy who ventured down to watch his first Sandringham game with his older sister. His name was Bruce Bowles, a name which is now a very familiar one amongst the Sandringham faithful. Not because he was the best footballer, his career was caught short with a neck injury in the Under 19’s, not because he has been a premiership coach, because he has volunteered his time for the past 20 years continuously and years beyond that.
Bowles, puts it simply. “I absolutely love Sandringham, they are the only club I was interested in,”
“If I didn’t want to be here and help out I would walk away, but I do want to be here and I love helping out.”
He remembers watching that first game with his older sister Valerie and continuing to follow the Zebras before playing with the club before injury struck.
“I had to stop playing after injuring my neck but still watched the club and followed their progress,” Bruce said.
“It was really part of growing up in my life.” Bruce stepped away from Sandringham when he moved but was eventually lured back by friends who asked for him to lend a helping hand. “I use to watch from Can Hill and a couple of mates asked me to help out one day and I said why not and here we are today.”
Twenty years later Bruce is still going strong, this year he is the team manager for the senior side again (17 years Seniors/3 years Reserves) but he has done his fair share of jobs throughout the club.
He was there when Trevor Barker arrived, he witnessed the stars in Shane Foley, David MacGeorge, Nick Sautner, Sean O’Keefe and currently David Gallagher run around and he couldn’t be happier.
“The culture down at the club is a very good one,” he said. “There have been some tremendous players and coaches around the club throughout my time and that has been a huge part of my great ride.
“It has been a real highlight that they club has been successful for a long period of time, this is on and off the field.” He calls it the golden era with Sandringham having won 7 premierships since 1992.
“Obviously the premierships have been fantastic, I think it averages out to one every 3 or so years so that is not bad going,” Bruce said. “It has not been all smooth sailing though, I remember as a kid watching on Can Hill and they would get smashed each week. I have had the good with the bad.”
His passion for the club can’t be questioned and he remembers even going over the top on the odd occasion.
“I had quite a few run ins with the umpires during my time and as a player I was reported more times than not, also as a Team Mgr. John Mennie, has got me out of trouble a few times! But that has been purely passion and loyalty to the boys that play for this great club.”
Not only is Bruce heavily involved in the club but is has been a family affair with all three of his sons James, 22, Matthew, 19 and Mitchell, 13, previous mascots for the club.
Matthew (“Boofa”) has also made the Sandringham senior squad this season much to the delight of Bruce. “Of course on a personal note that was a very proud moment,” Bruce said. “My wife Kathy said I was probably happier when I found out Matt made the squad than on my wedding day,” he said with a laugh.
On that note Bruce said he has been very lucky with the support his wife has shown him over his long journey with Sandringham. “I have been very lucky that Kathy came from a small town where everyone followed the football and netball teams,” Bruce said. “She has been very good; there were occasions when I would spend more time at the football club than at home!”
Most importantly Bruce has not been paid a single cent for his services.
“As I said I am here because I want to be,” he said. “Just because you don’t get paid doesn’t mean you can’t come down and help out and enjoy it, there are some great committed volunteers down here. It is what keeps clubs running.”
While Sandringham has missed the finals for the past three years Bruce believes there is light at the end of the tunnel and is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“I think it is a very exciting time for the club at the minute, rebuilding” Bruce said.
“We have a new coach and an exciting young list and our main aim should be trying to improve each year.”
You can be rest assured that Sandringham are building for another premiership, it may or may not come this year but when it does come you can guarantee Bruce Bowles will be there volunteering his services.
Troy Snow is an RMIT Journalism Graduate writing these stories for the Sandringham Football Club on a voluntary basis; I would like to thank Troy for giving up his personal time to write this article. We look forward to more from him throughout the year!