Rosa recalls Pios Glory Days
A LOT has happened in the 14 years since Simon Rosa first travelled from Brim to play his first match for the Bendigo Bank Pioneers Football Club.
Rosa’s play as a midfielder in the Pioneers from ‘99 until 2001 has him in the running for selection in the “30 greatest” as the club celebrates 21 years.
The first instalment of six in a series being run by the Bendigo Advertiser is the Selwood twins – Adam and Troy, the silky-skilled Nick Dal Santo, ruckman Hugh Foott, and wingmen Rick Ladson and Simon Rosa.
A dozen years after they played in Bendigo’s only appearance in a TAC Cup grand final, Ladson and Rosa are now team-mates at Golden Square.
Ladson is a first-year coach at the Bulldogs, who are striving for a fifth consecutive premiership victory.
“There have been a lot of matches, a lot of highs, and some lows since those days,” said Rosa, who will play a key role for Square in tomorrow’s battle of the BFNL’s Bulldogs at Gisborne’s Gardiner Reserve.
Among the many highs have been premiership victories with Golden Square the past three years.
Rosa said playing for the Pioneers helped develop his football in many ways.
“They were challenging times, but great times.
“I played a couple of matches for the Pioneers as a 16-year-old in ‘99, and then had two full years with the club.”
Like many Pioneers over the years, Rosa and his family racked up many hours and kilometres travelling for training and matches.
“Warracknabeal is two hours away from Bendigo, so it was a big strain, not just for me, but the family.”
In the second half of the 2001 season, Rosa boarded with Pioneers regional manager Ray Byrne and his family.
“The support network was fantastic, not just from Ray, but also from Neville Strauch, as well as coaches Rod Macpherson, and my first coach at the Pios, Brian Walsh,” said Rosa.
The 2001 team had many players kick on to play AFL, while others have made their mark in the Bendigo FL and other leagues across the state.
“It was a great team to be part of,” Rosa said.
An awesome line-up included Troy Selwood, whose career of more than 180 games for West Coast include the 2006 grand final victory.
Adam Selwood was among five Pioneers drafted to AFL clubs in 2002. He played 75 games for the Brisbane Lions and is still playing a key role with Geelong’s team in the VFL.
Dal Santo recently played his 250th match for St Kilda. Among the many highs of his career were grand finals for the Saints in 2009, and 2010 (twice), and selection in the All-Australian Team three times.
Rick Ladson played 125 matches for Hawthorn, which included the 2008 grand final victory against Geelong.
Hugh Foott was one of the Pioneers best in the 2001 grand final and is starring for Swan Hill in the Central Murray Football League.
The club’s draftees from 2001 – were Ladson and Daniel Elstone to Hawthorn, Dal Santo to St Kilda, Foott and Ashley Watson to North Melbourne.
The Pioneers grand final opponent 12 years ago, Calder Cannons had the likes of Dane Swan, James Kelly and Jordan Barham star in the Cup decider on the MCG.
While memories of 2001 are bittersweet, Rosa said playing TAC Cup was a great opportunity.
He still takes a keen interest in the Pioneers and goes to games when he can.
Bendigo is home for Rosa and wife Kristi and children Jake, 3, and Beau, eight months.
The youngest of the brothers, Matt is playing for West Coast where team-mates include Adam and Scott Selwood.
Away from the football field, Simon Rosa’s landscape gardening business is flourishing, just like his football for the blue and gold.