By Phil Skeggs
I must preface this next citation for Vin Sammartino with an admission that I rarely got to see him play during most of the ’80s because I was either working interstate, travelling overseas, or covering Brisbane’s first few seasons in the AFL.
So I’ve had to rely on the recollections of other clubmen for Vin’s back story.
He has been variously described to me as a “man-boy” and a “lean young bull” when he was playing Under 17s back in 1982.
The next year (1983) Vin bypassed the Under 19s – the traditional stepping stone to senior footy – and had a crack at seniors in A grade.
He had a bloody initiation in his first practice match against Eastern league club East Ringwood.
I’m told Vin bravely tried to bullock his way through a pack of opposition players and emerged with his eye split from side to side.
That didn’t deter this “lightning quick” young colt from East Ivanhoe and he quickly established a reputation as a “good, strong hard-hitting half-back flanker” who delivered “massive kicks”.
The club yo-yoed between A and B grades for most of the ’80s, and it was a top standard of footy with plenty of talented competition for senior spots too.
In 1987 Vin played D grade with his old school club St Kevin’s, and finished equal fourth in the comp B&F.
Thankfully he returned to us, albeit a bit older and heavier, and was versatile enough to go forward or play midfield. In racing parlance, he was a heavy track specialist … and as many of you know Ivanhoe Park could get pretty muddy.
In 1991-92, he wore no. 11 playing in C grade under the late Kel Shaw.
In a practice match one year, he was hell bent on wearing his favourite jumper no.11. Unfortunately, that jumper was a bit small and Vin had to squeeze into it.
As the team ran onto the ground, club captain John ‘Freezer’ Freeman, who was a bit of a wag, said to the group: “Look at ‘Brackets’ here guys!!” ()
Vin wore number 12 the following year (1993).
When Doug Gott was appointed senior coach in 1995, Vin was appointed chairman of selectors and worked alongside assistant coach John Matthew.
The trio had a keen understanding of the game and got the seniors to the C grade grand final, winning promotion to B grade. Vin stayed on in the role alongside Gott in 1996 when the club consolidated in B.
Off the field, Vin was popular with teammates and a regular at social functions, loving gambling nights such as Crown & Anchor organised by the legendary Reg “Mulga’’ Miles.
All up, Vin played some 178 games between 1983-94 and when you factor in his off-field involvement in the mid-90s, he was well qualified for life membership.
He’s probably not a familiar face to younger club members. Vin headed up a business with some 500 employees so he didn’t always have time to be around the club.
He’s also a mad Collingwood fan and passionate about horse racing. In fact, he’s been a part-owner of three Melbourne Cup winners and 12 Group 1 winners.
But it’s a safe bet Vin’s a dyed-in-the-wool Hoer and loves to catch up with old teammates at reunions. Without further ado, it’s with great pleasure we welcome Vin Sammartino as a Life Member of the Ivanhoe AFC.