Sport: AFL - Peter Physick - Part 2


Interviewee: Peter Physick, born 1952

Interviewer: Frank Heimans,

            for The Hills Shire Council

Date of Interview: 29 April 2010

Transcription: Glenys Murray, June 2010

This interview represents the personal recollections, views and opinions of the interviewee

So how was that project financed? What were the obstacles to be overcome there? You also needed lots of finance to get this new ground?

Well yes, Council owned it. It’s on Council land anything that any sporting club builds on Council land they cease to own. If I had to work out percentage terms in terms of the overall cost certainly Cricket NSW, the AFL and the East Coast Eagles as the consortium put in some dollars. Originally Council said we’ve got this piece of land here. We will build the oval “this big” if you want it “this big” then you need to put the difference in. Similarly with the amenities block. So consequently Council said we’ll fund the majority of it but you just put in the difference. I would say that it turned out that Council probably paid, without doing the math’s and I stand to be corrected, ninety five percent of the whole project, the consortium probably five. I’m pretty sure overall it was a $7.9 million dollar project. If I do the math’s the consortium probably put in $450,000 or thereabouts. So whatever those percentages are that’s the way it was financed. We’re very lucky. Council really wanted… we hoped that we had sold them on having regional sport in the Shire area. The East Coast Eagles is the only club that plays its chosen code of sport in the state leagues. In other words we’re the only state league competitor in The Hills Shire Council. There’s no netball team, there’s no rugby team, there’s no union team, there’s no league team, there’s no cricket that plays at a state league level.

We encouraged them to think that we would be able to bring a lot of things to the Council that wouldn’t otherwise happen. Unless you built a state of the art ground and state of the art it is. It’s fully drained, every bit of water that falls on the oval or in the car park or on the roof of the amenities block or anywhere in the whole complex. The water is gobbled up by massive drains all the way down the back to a retention basin down the back. The retention basin holds the excess water which then as required is pumped back up the top and used to irrigate the facility.

The amenities, it probably has the largest rooms I would say in Sydney football without doubt. It has 500 lux lights which has been a boon to us. The amenities area unfortunately because of the topography of the ground they had to build the amenities with the spectators facing west. In the evening or the late afternoon you are looking into the setting sun which is unfortunate. Nevertheless an obstacle that we can overcome because we play a lot of games at night and the 500 lux lights attract the people from around the neighbourhood like you wouldn’t believe. We see so many different people now sitting on the hill and on the terraces that we’ve never seen before. They’re clearly locals that have come out to watch what is a very good standard of football.

Sporting facilities at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill 2008

During your first season playing on the new ground, which teams did you actually play?

Well the Sydney football league, AFL Sydney as I correctly should say consists of the East Coast Eagles and Pennant Hills from around this Hills area. Two fiercely competitive clubs against each other there’s no doubt about that. It has St George from the St George area. It has Campbelltown, it has two universities, one being the Sydney University the other one is the University of NSW which in recent times has merged with East Sydney. So it’s become known as the University of NSW-East Sydney. There is North Shore that represents the northern part of the northern peninsular. (There’s Balmain who play in… in fact I erroneously omitted Balmain in a previous question Frank, when you asked me about what other clubs had formed relationships with the AFL? Well Balmain has formed one with the Fremantle Dockers. They will unashamedly say they copied our system down to every last point.)

There’s nine, there’s nine help me out with the last one I just can’t think of it. I’ll think of it as we are going along. So all of those clubs from around Sydney all play at Bruce Purser Reserve and that’s at the premier league level. Then at division one, two and three levels you’ve got a whole range of clubs then underneath that level that play there. Manly, Macquarie University, Moorebank, Penrith, Hawkesbury, the list goes on. There’s quite a number of clubs in the Sydney footy league that all play at Bruce Purser and as a result all bring their family and friends into the Shire.

How has the AFL recognised the ground?

The code is growing so fast and the AFL are improving the facilities around NSW and particularly in Sydney so quickly that they need high quality grounds upon which to play. I understand that in a recent meeting between Dale Holmes the general manager of the NSW AFL and the Council indicated that the AFL were interested in making Bruce Purser a regional centre for AFL football, which would be a huge feather in our cap. That would see additional infrastructure built there. They see Bruce Purser Reserve as a huge complement to the ground that has just been recently built at Blacktown Olympic Park. So the Blacktown ground and Bruce Purser Reserve and a number of other ovals they’ve identified will become central hubs for AFL in Sydney.

Mayor Larry Bolitho starts the first AFL game Sydney Swans vs
Western Bulldogs at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill March 2009

How important has sponsorship been to the success of the club?

Critical sporting clubs often get a major sponsor, or a sponsor that agrees to sponsor them for a year. That’s fine you get the income and then at the end of your season you then wake up the next day and say ”jingoes I wonder if they’re going to sponsor us again next year?”. So you’ve got to do all the hard work again. The key to ongoing revenue from sponsorship is to really call your sponsors partners as opposed to sponsors so they become a partner to the football club. A financial partner because the footy club raises money through all sorts of different avenues of which sponsorship is only one. So a sponsor becomes a partner. We were no different to that. We used to go from one year to the next wondering what our situation was going to be.

Then we had a gentleman called Steve Gawley, I was introduced to Steve who runs a company called Base Course Management that has profiling machines that rip up the roads so that other companies can come in and relay the surface. Steve loves the West Coast Eagles and as a result we figured he’d probably love the East Coast Eagles as well. He lives in Sydney out at Riverstone and of course Steve did do that. Over the years Steve took on the task of becoming our director of sponsorship and partnership sponsors. He did it so well and so quickly that we have people lining up now. That again sounds an arrogant statement but it’s true. We have people seeking to become sponsors of the footy club. Steve made sure that they were certainly signed up not for one year but for two, three, and four. So we’ve got a wonderful relationship with those people. They enjoy that we do look after them. It’s not a matter of taking one hundred percent of the money from the sponsors you’ve got to give a hell of a lot of it back. In terms of looking after them and giving them things they want. Naturally there has to be a net income to the football club and we do manage that quite well I think. Sponsors are a major part of the footy club.

You’ve also raised some funds through events like the Eagles Extravaganza which was in 2003 and you raised $35,000 in an auction night at the Corus Hotel. Did they help in furnishing the finances of the club?

Without doubt Eagles Extravaganza still continues to this day and I’ll explain what that is. It started off originally as the Baulko Bonanza because once again I thought under the shower one day, I thought about how can we raise a bit of money. So Baulko Bonanza was born. It’s based on the way a Calcutta works in a horse race. You’ll hear of Melbourne Cup Calcutta’s. Very simply we group three or four players together, three or four in each of about twenty five lots. We auction off those lots at the quaintly named Jumper Presentation Night for our club at the beginning of the season when we present the jumpers to the players. Also then auction the players off through extravaganza. If someone wins the best and fairest at the end of the season in first grade or comes second or third. The same in reserve grade you will receive money for them based on the percentage of the pool. If someone gets the first free kick on each match day and is named best player on that match day, the owner of that person will get more money back weekly. The club retains twenty five percent of the pool and in some years that gets up to $35,000. It becomes a pretty big pay day at the end of the day for the winning owners. The club benefits from that. That Eagles Extravaganza concept is now being used by a lot of other clubs as well. It’s quite different to the other option that you mentioned. There was quite an extraordinary auction that we put on at the Corus Hotel I think you said 2003 or thereabouts. We did raise a lot of money. That was a very, very fun day from a guy called Craig Barber who was the general manager of the Corus Hotel in the city. Craig put a lot of work into that. A lot of his suppliers to the hotel supplied goods for the auction and it was a big day and that put us in the black for quite some time.

Sydney Swans vs Western Bulldogs game at Bruce Purser Rouse Hill March 2009

What’s the scholarship programme for Sydney juniors and how does that work?

Given that we’re having this interview just after the Melbourne Storm (Rugby League Club) debacle it’s interesting that you should ask me. The AFL has both a salary cap and a draft system. We might have the best sixteen year old playing for our club in Australia but it doesn’t automatically mean he can go and play for West Coast. It doesn’t automatically mean that he can go and play for the Sydney Swans. He can’t choose his own club. He has to go into the draft and he could finish up anywhere. All kids that aspire to be an AFL player understand that and so do their parents. So the draft works very, very well with the salary cap.

In NSW in order for the code to grow the AFL in their wisdom decided to introduce scholarship schemes for Sydney kids. What it means without explaining how the draft works which is sometimes complicated. What it means is that an AFL club be it Fremantle, Adelaide, Collingwood, Geelong, doesn’t matter. If they identify a kid in Sydney or NSW that shows potential then they can put him on a scholarship. They will pay his school tuition and I’m sure there’s money left over for the kid’s family as well. Essentially that kid is locked in. Let’s say it’s Geelong. So Geelong identify a kid, they can scholarship list him and they can continue to have him for two years till the time he turns eighteen. Which means he is now the age that he can be drafted what it means is that kid is guaranteed to go to Geelong. This can’t happen in any other state. It may be happening in Queensland I couldn’t be sure of that. It’s certainly not happening in Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania or Victoria. In Sydney to encourage kids to play and to encourage AFL clubs to get involved in Sydney footy. They can identify a kid at a young age and he can be guaranteed by them and they can pick him in the third round of the draft. Now that’s still in place although it may be getting phased out again now. It certainly worked and there are a number of Sydney kids playing footy at the highest level around Australia and many more to come.

So how are the East Coast Eagles now positioned within the AFL hierarchy?

Well we’re the current premiers in first grade. We field teams in the premier league in division one which is our reserve grade, division three which is our third grade senior team. We field a team in the under 18’s premier cup and we field a team in the under 18 challenge cup.

Each and every one of those is very competitive. The club itself is I think pretty well thought of by the AFL. We’re sometimes a bit like Collingwood I suppose. Everyone hates Collingwood and barracks for whoever plays Collingwood. That often happens here, people barrack for the team that’s playing East Coast. We do have a good reputation I believe and I think we’re pretty well run. Within the hierarchical system of the AFL we’re there and we hope to remain at the top for a long, long time.

Now Peter you were president of the club for twelve years uninterruptedly. What do you think have been some of your major achievements as president during all that time?

Well without doubt first and foremost is the alliance with West Coast. Couldn’t believe that it would be as successful as it’s become, I didn’t think it would ever come. I suppose I had aspirations but when it happened and it still remains so much in force to the point of the ten year celebration last week. That’s certainly a highlight. Equally is the acquisition of Bruce Purser Reserve. The final creation of it and having it delivered to us was huge. We put so much work into that. So much work by so many people to firstly get the approval, get the ground allocated. Then to have it designed and built. So that’s certainly another achievement. The third one is seeing my family so entrenched and involved with the footy club. Ben and Tim have both played for many, many years. Ben my oldest son has played the highest number of first grade games for East Coast. Timmy has won a Sanders Medal which is the best and fairest in the competition at reserve grade level. He’s played well over… well it could be 350 games when you take into account all East Coast Eagles games and all the Baulkham Hills games. It’s great to see them progressing and its terrific to see so many other kids who you first look at, at under nines and now they’re playing first grade. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see young men progress. To that extent football clubs have a huge role to play in the community. They occupy the time and keep the kids healthy and it keeps them if you like, off the streets. They all drive cars but hopefully they don’t hoon around. It gives them an alternative outlook on life other than hanging around Castle Towers Shopping Centre annoying the hell out of everybody. They don’t do that, they’re at the footy club. I just think that we are a good role in the community in that respect.

Electronic scoreboard at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill March 2009

What is your present involvement with the East Coast Eagles today? What positions do you hold?

After the presidency I stayed on the board for one more year as the facilities director. Then wanted to stand aside to allow some other people to… thirteen years was too long. For this year 2010 I’m back on the board in a capacity as the facilities director again to fill a vacancy. Whilst I do that I’m still heavily involved in the ground. It’s still my little baby, not my little baby I suppose. I want to make sure it grows a little bit more than it is at the moment. It needs a few more things.

So was that your biggest battle and your biggest challenge, securing that ground, when you look back over your twelve years as president?

Without doubt it just lived with us. It was part of everyday life securing it. There were so many people who fortunately are recorded in the yearbooks for each year who helped in the battle to get the ground. Not the battle, wrong word, helped in the process of going through everything that was needed in order to acquire the ground. So many people did it so yes I was the president at that time to secure it was a major achievement.

So what are the present plans for expansion or development of the club?

Of the club or the ground?

The club as a whole and the ground?

The AFL currently has sixteen teams around Australia. They are going to grow that to eighteen with the inclusion of the Gold Coast and the new GWS club which will be called something different but will be played out at Blacktown. So they’ll have eighteen teams. One of the challenges they’ve got is “what’s the tier of football underneath that?”

Amenities block at Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill 2009

Now at the moment the Sydney Swans for example their reserve grade side plays in the Canberra League because they consider that the Sydney league isn’t strong enough. Although hopefully they would be reflecting on that now. The Brisbane Lions, the reserve grade team for the Brisbane side play in the QFL. So really what I’m getting at is the AFL in Melbourne are very seriously looking and probably have already designed a major east coast of Australia competition. Where the Brisbane Lions reserve grade, Gold Coast reserve grade, Sydney reserve grade, Swans reserve grade that is, GWS’s reserve grade can play in. Four is not enough so they have to supplement that with Canberra and some teams from the Sydney league and the Brisbane League to make it into say twelve teams. East Coast Eagles would put their hand up readily to be part of that competition. Which is another major step up. We already have the facility in place. It’s already hosted an AFL match there between the Swans and Western Bulldogs last year in a NAB challenge game. The facility is OK. If the club itself wants to progress then it needs to get into that high competition should it ever come about.


In terms of Bruce Purser what we need to do there is we want to improve the amenities block there or make it bigger. When I say improve it that’s the wrong word. We want to expand it and build up above and we would like to have an East Coast Eagles Social Club up there, where we can entertain our sponsors and our partners. Also build it in such a fashion that "mothers clubs" can use it. Community groups can use it during the week. It is a community centre it’s not there for one hundred percent football. Certainly on the weekends it is but during the week we can make sure that communities are well looked after and have got somewhere to go.

We would also like to have more mounds around the ground to improve the spectator access and facilities. Last of all we would like to have some big major nets put behind the goals because the footballs at the moment go down the hill and they get out on the road and prove dangerous to traffic. You’ve always got to have someone to go and fetch them. It’s important that we put some nets up along with the AFL’s plans for it becoming a regional centre as well.

So how many teams in total of all ages are now playing AFL football within the Shire?

Question without notice, well Baulkham Hills Hawks Juniors I don’t know they’d have to have twenty teams. We have five senior teams. Then you’ve got all the junior clubs. Kellyville Magpies would have to have seventeen or eighteen now. They’re up to about the under fifteen age group. Next year they’ll go to… no there might be an under sixteen’s this year. I would hazard a guess and say eighty all up in the Shire. Kellyville Magpies play out at Bruce Purser Reserve. They use it when the senior club isn’t using it. Baulkham Hills play out of Charles McLaughlin. Kellyville also use Memorial Oval in Memorial Drive. Then you’ve got the Winston Hills teams, it goes on and on.

Crowd at opening AFL match Bruce Purser Reserve March 2009

That’s quite an investment in resources and in amenities for the Shire with that many teams playing. What do you think the affect is on the Shire itself of having that amenity?

The community as I mentioned before. There are a lot of expats in it and I think the Council would have numbers to identify how many people from interstate move into the Shire. So if they come from the southern states then they all get involved in footy. In fact I thought originally when we were with the Baulkham Hills Falcons, I thought we’ve got this made because it’s only a matter of time before all these terrific twelve year olds grow up to be terrific twenty year olds and they can play senior football for us.

That in a number of cases happened. Not as often as it should have because guess what happened? Dad got transferred away again out of Sydney and took the kids with him. So there is a transient movement of people in and out of the Shire. If they’ve got a love for AFL then they play it with gusto. The facilities that Council are putting in place for the code are pretty well correct.

How do you see the future of the club?

Exciting, Gus Seebeck is our chairman of directors which is essentially the same job I held as president. We just renamed it to chairman. Gus and his board of Tony Moran, Mark Pinchen, Craig Abercrombie and myself we’re certainly all pulling in the same direction. We’ve written business plans, we’ve written how we see the club of the… 2012 where we see it going in terms of that other possible competition along the eastern seaboard. That could come about. We see the need possibly to even put a fourth or a fifth senior team in because there are just a lot of people wanting to play AFL football at the moment.

We believe that we’ve got an extremely bright future in the competition.

So is there anything else you’d like to add before we complete the interview?

Certainly without the support of the Council and its officers we wouldn’t have the ground that we have. There’s no doubt about that. The club would be playing somewhere maybe it would be playing in another council area, I don’t know.

Bruce Purser Reserve Rouse Hill with rainbow above 2009

We’re so pleased to be back in The Hills Shire and certainly pleased to have Bruce Purser. Just a particular thanks to everyone there who signed off what was required to get the ground that we’ve now got. We just love it we treat it as though we built it and paid for it and owned it ourselves. We love it there and we just want to see it be improved and be used by as many members of the community to play AFL football as they can.

I guess on that note with Bruce Purser too. Thank you to the AFL they were a wonderful help with us in the years leading up to the start of the ground. They were fabulous in their support and their ideas and their ability to get things done. Of course their contribution to the ground as well.

West Coast always there when you need them, they always provide tremendous support. Not financial support but they provide tremendous support in everything we do. Certainly there’s no doubt that we model ourselves on some of the things that they have gone about administratively.

Finally to our supporters they’ve been through thick and thin. We were all rewarded last year with the premiership. Hopefully we can get a few more in years to come. They’ve been wonderful. As I said they’ve been nomads and they’ve just gone from place to place to place wherever the team played. They’ve been wonderful and I thank them wholeheartedly for their support of the club.