Blues Honour a great of the club

  • 12th October 2015
  • Posted by Uni Blues

It is with great pleasure that Uni Blues announce that the Senior Coaches award will now be known as the Alan Salter Trophy Alan Salter, named after a man who had a profound impact on the Blues from 1975 and his influence remain to this day.

Alan’s playing career through the 50’and early 60’s with Coburg VFA and Coburg Amateurs in the VAFA was less than spectacular (although Alan will always tell you otherwise) where he fulfilled roles of small forward and slow rover, always with plenty of advice for the opposition.

He commenced his coaching career with Coburg Amateurs (VAFA) in the mid 60’s and they were a powerhouse in Amateur football under his leadership until 1974 – runners-up in 1965 and 1970 and A Section premiers in 1969.

Peter Brukner, President between in 1974 takes up the story.

Appointing Alan Salter was the easiest decision we ever made was to appoint Alan as Blues coach.  The Uni Blues BS (before Salts) were quite frankly a rabble. Poorly organised, no non-playing officials, very little talent as we had been screwed by the Blacks for consecutive years taking the best players who came to Uni to help them get out of B Grade. 1974 we hit rock bottom. The Seniors did not win a single game. Probably not that surprising when you had Brukner (21 year old medical student trying to run a club where all experienced people had left) and Bobby Girdwood captain (enough said). To make matters worse the Blacks won A Grade.

The Blues changed forever one Friday night in September 1974. 

We had advertised for a Senior Coach and had surprisingly received an application from longstanding Coburg Amateurs coach, Alan Salter. Our impression of Salts as coach was an obnoxious little shit who would scream at umpires all game from the boundary line. He was a tradie whose command of the Queen’s English was not of the highest standard. In other words we all thought he would be totally unsuited to coaching a group of highly educated private schoolboys (except for Bob!). However we thought we should do him the courtesy of interviewing him. I can’t remember who exactly was there apart from Bob and myself. I am guessing Tim Standish. I don’t think Barry Church was there cos I remember telling him about it afterwards. Maybe one or two other players. 

Salts was driven to the meeting by his old friend and Coburg Amateur manager, Ted McMamara. I remember starting the “interview” – well really it quickly became a Salter monologue – feeling very negative, but within the space of about 5 minutes I was ready to run out on the ground and run through a brick wall. It was very clear that he was the man for us. He was inspiring. At the end of the interview he said he had this mate who had driven him to the interview, Teddy Mac, and if Alan came Ted and his wife Norma would come and do any job we wanted them to do. Little did he realise that Ted and Norma would do every job we had! He also said he had another mate Jimmy Gilchrist who would do our preseason training. So instantly we went from having no off-field support to having three experienced campaigners. I don’t remember much that happened in 1974, but I distinctly remember feeling really excited after that interview. I knew that we were at the start of something pretty exciting.

Salts taught me (and others) how a football club should work. He was inclusive and welcomed everyone. For example, Frank Henagan was around at the time but very much a loner and outsider who just ran the boundary. Salts and Yvonne adopted Frank and the rest is history – Melbourne Uni Football and Cricket clubs and Trinity College got one of their finest men. Would not have happened without Salts. Salts taught me, and I think many others, a lot about life. His philosophy was that you treat others the way you would want to be treated yourself. Pretty simple really, but he lived his philosophy and we all benefitted.

On the field Salts worked us hard, but everyone wanted to play for him. We had some good Juniors at the time, and Salts and Ted, Yvonne and Norma took them under their wings, fed them, clothed them, and generally acted as surrogate parents. Not surprisingly success came on the field. Promotion back to A Grade at the end of the first season, finals first year up, then a series of A Grade Grand Finals. We never managed to handle the Elsternwick Park wind on Grand Final day so that elusive A Grade premiership was not won, but in the space of a few years Blues had gone from being a laughing stock to one of the most successful and respected clubs in the VAFA. And that has continued for 40 years.

Great coach and leader that he was, sometimes he didn’t quite get the tactics right, like the time we were undefeated after 5 rounds and he decided to kick against the gale force wind at De La. We weren’t undefeated for long being down by seven goals at quarter time. The boys presented him with a weather vane at the end of the season and He was awarded the prestigious Chris Brown trophy for best clubman in 1981.

He left Blues to coach Ivanhoe in the 1980s and returned to coach Blues in again from 1987-89, with the team finishing fourth in 1989. He was Reserve assistant coach 2005 and U19 assistant coach from 2006 to 2012.

Alan was made a life member of the club in 1989, followed by Yvonne in 1997. Ted and Norma McMamara and Jimmy Gilchrist have also been awarded Life Memberships.

We take it for granted that we are now part of a very successful and well run club, among the top Amateur football clubs in the country. But 41 years ago it was very different.

It all started with Alan Salter and we should all be eternally grateful.

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A few of the “old timers” … from Left, Bobby Girdwood, Alan Slater, Tony McInerney, Peter Brukner and Jimmy Gilchrist enjoy catching up at Presentation Night.

The inaugural winner of the Alan Salter Award is Shaw Kitchen. Full award details at www.uniblues.com