Tash Gunawardana and Nick Armistead
Fitzroy Football Club President Joan Eddy was recognised as the 2019 AFL Football Woman of the Year Award (Community Category) last week for her incredible contribution to amateur footy.
Eddy, who has been at the Roys for more than 20 years, has served her club and association in a myriad of roles and spoke to VAFA Media about her love for Fitzroy and the recognition she received Friday night.
“The club is an extraordinary organisation and I am privileged to be the president,” she said.
“It’s a great honour and recognition for all the work and my long history at being involved in community football, but it’s also much bigger than that – its recognition for the club which is very important.”
Fitzroy’s history is well-documented after first joining the VAFA in 1955 and incorporates the University Reds and Old Fitzroy whereby a strong group of supporters still support the club they grew up loving pre-AFL merger.
“Fitzroy has a lot of history and I am really proud to be part of the 21st century story that includes football coming back to the Brunswick St Oval,” Eddy said.
“It’s great to get our Fitzroy football identity back at our home, our heartland at Brunswick St Oval.”
In her time at the Roys, Eddy has been part of many incredible moments; including, the introduction of women’s football five years ago and the club’s U19 premiership when she oversaw the side’s operations as Team Manager.
“They won the (under 19s) premiership my son had played in and it was a great experience to share that in our first year in the senior club,” Eddy said.
Her son, Tom Cheshire, played his entire career at Fitzroy and retired at the end of last season but not before kicking one of the most memorable goals in club history against Williamstown CYMS in the second semi-final – a moment sure to make Eddy smile for a very long time.
Unsurprisingly, the 2018 Premier C senior men’s and reserves flags and subsequent promotion to Premier B are also atop her highlights reel.
The club has long been regarded as having one of the strongest supporter bases in community football, with Brunswick St Oval a haven for die-hard Roys fans each Saturday afternoon. You’d be hard-pressed to find a larger sea of patriotic colours surrounding any local ground than the red, blue and gold at BSO.
“To see old Fitzroy supporters who found it pretty hard when Fitzroy stopped playing in the AFL at the end of 1996 and bringing joy to a lot of those people since we have come back to Brunswick St Oval over the last 20 years and having success over the last 10 years that’s been very special as well,” she said.
The AFL Football Woman of the Year Award isn’t Eddy’s first individual accolade after receiving the Community Sport Award at the Yarra Council Community Awards in 2018 as well as a VAFA Certificate of Merit earlier this year.
Those accolades, however, don’t necessarily sit well with the Roys’ matriarch because the success of any local club is reliant on “the group, the members, supporters and the players”, she said.
“At a personal level it is lovely to be recognised and I am very grateful, and it is an honour, but we all understand that it’s about the broader community of the Fitzroy.”
From a club perspective, Fitzroy is fast approaching its 140th year celebrations; a time when the club will acknowledge and celebrate its, at times tumultuous, but largely incredible history.
“All people who love AFL football, many of them have a soft spot for Fitzroy, so we need to understand how privileged we are to be the custodians of that history and legacy.”
We’ve little doubt Joan will successfully lead an incredible celebration of the Roys and congratulate her on her latest achievement.