Deakin University’s Andy Finlay holds a rare distinction on the Warrnambool Campus as the only lecturer who was part of the inaugural Deakin Sharks football team 40- years ago.
Mr Finlay, a lecturer with the Faculty of Business and Law at both the Warrnambool and Waurn Ponds campuses, was a member of the first Sharks team in April 1977 and was the first player to reach the 50 game milestone.
As the Sharks prepare to celebrate their 40th reunion on July 9, Mr Finlay has recalled his role in the Sharks’ early years.
Mr Finlay was a solicitor in Warrnambool in the 1970s and played for Warrnambool Football Club for four years before joining the Deakin Sharks in 1977 and playing 66 games in total.
“It was an exciting time as a brand new team,” he said.
The first few years were tough going, but the team started to hit its stride before he left for Canberra at the end of 1980.
“It was always good fun but the last couple of years were really enjoyable,” Mr Finlay said. “I think we won nine games each season and narrowly missed the finals.”
Ross Price was coach at the time and the team had recruited good local players to supplement an annual influx of students. “We had quite a competitive side after being a bit of a chopping block at the start,” Mr Finlay said. “It was a very enjoyable t8ime in my football career.”
In the early days home games were played at the Walter Oval but by the end of Mr Finlay’s playing career the Sharks had moved to the Pond for training.
“I never actually played a game on the Pond though we did train there in my last year,” he said. “I still have great memories; anybody who has been involved with the Sharks would have enjoyed the socialisation of the club; they certainly know how to celebrate.”
His one regret was not getting to do the infamous Shark Shuffle to celebrate a win. “It was just coming in at the end of my time,” Mr Finlay lamented.
“We had some memorable wins including beating Bushfield, now North Warrnambool, who won the flag in 1978 and Merrivale who were the premiers in 1979.
Mr Finlay returned to Warrnambool at the start of 2014 after 33 years as a consultant solicitor in Canberra and took up a role lecturing based at the Warrnambool Campus.
"My wife Mary is from Terang and we have grand children in Victoria so it’s good to be back in Warrnambool,” he said.
He has continued to follow the Sharks through the years, including the solitary but unsuccessful grand final appearance in 1990.
“It has been tough with the downturn in student numbers but the current playing coach Joe Higgins seems to be doing a good job.” About 300 people are expected to attend the reunion at the Warrnambool racecourse.
To register for the Sharks reunion please email Richie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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