Almanac Footy: Coorparoo FC’s finest 1984-1986



Many AFL fans won’t have heard of the Coorparoo Football Club in the QAFL, but along with Southport, Windsor Zillmere and it’s other ‘south-side’ rival in Brisbane, Morningside, the Coorparoo Roos played a major role in accelerating the growth of the game in Queensland.


In nothing more than a sliding doors moment, I had the opportunity to play there between 1984 to 1986. It was the perfect storm really, the amalgamation of some ex-VFL players and a group of barely controllable but sublimely talented teenagers.


Throw in an overly exuberant and charasmatic coach in Riverina legend Laurie Pendrick and the club was a powder keg waiting to be lit.


This wasn’t just a successful era in the club’s history winning two flags (1984 & 1986) but for me, a 20 year old army aircraft mechanic dropping in on weekends to play footy, it was an eye opener to say the least.


I worked in Oakey, about half an hour west of Toowoomba and would drive the two hours down to Brisbane Friday afternoons to train.


Friday and Saturday nights were spent at the home of Laurie and his then wife Joanne’s house. We would play on Sundays and I would then drive home after a couple of hours back at the club.


I had played in a premiership with Laurie at North Wagga in 1983 and he asked me to follow that up by joining him at Coorparoo, along with a plethora of other young adventure seekers from mostly Victoria who were pretty much up for anything.


When you take these young guys from Vic and WA and combined them with a talented bunch of teenagers from the Coorparoo juniors, there was always going to be some electricity both on and off the field.


Our style of play was very much all out attack. Laurie’s philosophy was like that of Malcolm Blight’s. Who cares if they kick 20 goals if we kick 30?


Not my personal modus operandi, but certainly it worked in the premiership years and was ably leveraged by some extremely talented players.


It wasn’t just on the field where excellence was created. The club gained a well earned reputation for ‘party central’ on Sunday nights. Previously the mantle held by the Mayne FC, Giffin Park was suddenly the place to be when letting your hair down on Sundays in Brisbane.


I always did my best (not always successfully I’m ashamed to say) to stay sober enough to drive home and would stop to rest at a particular service station near Ipswich where they would make me the greatest strawberry milkshake ever in order to get me home to Toowoomba in one piece.


I’ve decided for no other reason other than old age, to put down the names of the top 10 players that I observed over those three years.


I would normally go for the greatest team player because they are the ones I respect the most, but I’ve decided to rate them on raw talent. That being said, most of these guys classify as ‘team first’ players anyway. I just wanted to illustrate how lucky you can be sometimes to have such talent in the one place at the same time.


The successes of Coorparoo and Southport throughout 80s in particular, certainly were instrumental in the Bears forming in 1987. Many of the players who accelerated that decision are in this list.



1 – Gary Becker. The boy from Bacchus Marsh was too much of a handful for Alan Jeans at St Kilda with his off field antics, so he found his way to Brisbane via NSW. Built like Michael Tuck, at recent reunions in Melbourne he honestly hasn’t changed in appearance. He may well be Satan for all we know. Gary was an outstanding mark and long kick, best used as a high half forward. A brilliant player who represented Queensland on sixteen occasions.


2 – Greg Page. Perhaps the most talented and laziest player I’ve seen or coached. More natural ability in his big toe than most players over six foot two I’ve ever seen. Aggressive (bordering on nasty), a natural defender who could be pushed forward and had extraordinary balance and skills on both sides of his body. Highly un-coachable, he spent a year at Central District in SA but got bored. Could have been anything with the right coaching, but getting him there would always be the issue. Starred in both grand finals.


3 – Jason Dunstall. Yeah I know. How can a Hall of Famer and likely AFL Legend be at number 3? Well I mentioned previously it was all about talent in 1984 and Jason was behind these two at that time. Having said that, I’ll always feel privileged watching his growth up close in 1984. Jason and his good mate Kel Millar were never far from juvenile hi-jinx and extremely competitive whether it was table tennis or marbles. Best hands I’ve ever seen and an inherent hatred of losing.


4 – Kevin O’Keeffe.  The former Fitzroy champ moved like a cat and was as hard as one’s head. A very cool temperament and a great leader, ‘Kezel’ brought his brothers Stephen and Terry to the club as well as a menagerie of awesome players and friends from Victoria’s Western District. Still extremely fit, he represented and captained Queensland in seventeen games.


5 – Terry O’Neill.  The former South Melbourne/Fitzroy/Port Melbourne utility was so damaging for us over those three years. He was probably six foot but seemed taller. He could literally play anywhere. I remember him going down back when we were in strife and then kicking multiple goals on a wing. A booming left foot kick and a very down to earth guy who hailed originally from the Riverina. Terry represented Queensland on twenty five occasions.


6 – Michael Gibson.  I sort of liken ‘Gibbo’ to a wild stallion. A superb natural athlete but ‘all over the shop’ when it came to execution. I’m pretty sure ‘Kezel’ helped him a bit with his defensive skills because Fitzroy signed him at the end of 1984 for three years. He returned after 1985 on loan back to Coorparoo and starred in 1986. The ‘refined’ Gibbo ended up back at Fitzroy then Brisbane before coaching Coorparoo. His attack on the ball was unforgettable and borderline reckless at times.


7 – Brendan McMullen.  It’s ridiculous to have ‘Macca’ this far down the list but I’m sure if the great man was with us today he wouldn’t disagree with those ahead of him. Macca won the unfortunately named Grogan Medal in both premiership years as the QAFL best and fairest and was best on ground in the 1986 premiership. He came from a rugby union background and was extremely quick and agile often breaking lines with ease. Highly competitive and loved a laugh, he is sadly missed by all of us connected with the club.


8 – Brett Jones.  Our former captain and ruckman who partnered with Les Millar (sorry Les I could only pick one of you!). ‘Butch’ always gave his all and did what all the best ruckman do, use their physicality to create space for us on ballers. A very skilful big man and led from the front, often competing undersized against monsters such as Gary Dempsey and Mick Nolan.


9 – Stephen Pyne.   Our resident policeman (and an uncorrupted one for that matter given the time and place) ‘Pyney’ was the Bruce Doull of our backline. Quiet, tough, efficient and highly reliable. While the other flashy defenders like the O’Keeffe’s, Gibson and Page flaunted their wares, it was the shy, judicious Pyney who covered for them. A terrific attacking defender and quality individual who played over 200 games for the club.


10 – Andy Colenso. The first time I saw Andy play was watching a reserves game at Giffin Park. He was standing on the mark as an opposition player was lining up for goal. He would have been 18 years old. He mentioned to the opponent that something solacious had happened between Andy and the opponent’s mother. As a result he kicked the ball out on the full and then took on Andy in a fight and lost. Andy is a cousin of the Shaw dynasty in Reservoir, Melbourne and played in a similar vein to cousin Tony, left footed, hard, and prone to moments of extreme physical and verbal intimidation. I think he was the youngest premiership player in 1984 and he took out the best and fairest in 1986. We both went to Collingwood at the end of 1986 but weren’t listed and ended up in the VFA. Very much a ‘heart and soul’ player, Andy has since built an entire football club, the Park Ridge Pirates, from scratch in Brisbane and done an amazing job as president.


My memories of Coorparoo are mostly positive and at times life changing. The events of those three years were littered with mischief but we always took the footy seriously.


The only negative for me was Monday mornings back at the Army Aviation Centre in Oakey, sore and hungover, but by midweek I couldn’t wait to get back to Brisbane for training again on Friday.


Things were a bit ‘loose’ in Queensland in the 80s. The Bjelke Peterson government was the most corrupt organisation in the country and about to experience the Fitzgerald Enquiry, and Brisbane was awash with men wearing tennis shorts and pastel polos.


I would offset this bizarre ‘Pleasantville-like’ environment by heading to the Fortitude Valley to see live bands and tuning into independent radio 4ZZZ. One minute I’d be listening to The Saints and The Go Betweens and the next I’d be playing golf with team mates amidst an abundance of pastels.


After leaving the army in July 1986 I moved in with two friends Karl and Liane in Coorparoo which also became a half-way house for the ‘too drunk to get home’. Both Karl and Liane are close friends to this day and live in Newcastle so I’ll be forever grateful for having met them.


Other team mates such as Tim Kenna, Stephen O’Keeffe, Mick Lenehan and Glen Hutcheson lived close by and walking distance to Giffin Park. At one stage in 1986 a group of players lived upstairs in an ex-brothel shared with a family living downstairs. You did what you had to.


The club weren’t great at getting quality work for the boys. Glen Hutcheson lived at Laurie’s for a while and I would see him on weekends. Glen and I are very close and are childhood friends from WA.


As well as playing a huge part in the 1986 premiership, ‘Hutchy’ would go on to play in Subiaco’s 1988 premiership. A gentle soul by nature, Hutchy needed some work.


The club got Hutchy a job at a meatworks where one of his tasks was poking pigs to move them along and into the abattoir as well as carting dead carcasses around in a wheelbarrow.


Laurie used to cook steak and eggs as a pre-game meal, something very Wagga Wagga-like. I didn’t mind because I’m a 100% carnivore, but one morning ‘Hutchy’ rebelled.


“Lozza could I just have some toast please?”


“What’s wrong with you son? You gone all soft on me?”


Hutchy hasn’t eaten meat since. He quit meat right there and then, almost forty years ago.


Match payments were another anomaly in the scheme of things. I was supposed to be on $150 a game but I can’t remember receiving too many envelopes over the three years.


Not that it mattered, but we heard stories of Southport players getting $500+. Still I’ll take the 95 point turnaround from the 1986 semi-final to beat Southport in the grand final any day over cash.


We do have a couple of Coorparoo reunions a year in Melbourne thanks to Kezel. We are planning to take the reunion to Brisbane next year to see our Queensland team mates which should be a hoot.






More from Ian Wilson can be read Here.



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About Ian Wilson

Former army aircraft mechanic, sales manager, VFA footballer and coach. Now mental health worker and blogger. Lifelong St Kilda FC tragic and father to 2 x girls.


  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    So that’s who Greg Page was – not sure that Cowboy Neale would have been the right coach.

  2. Terrific to read about the Roos of old

  3. Great read Swish. Yes that’s Pagey. Also I didn’t know David Flintoff was at Centrals. He is the cousin of Garry Lyon and tagged John Platten in the 1988 GF playing for Melbourne. We used to work together in the early 90’s. Very funny guy and nowadays on the board of the Eastern Football League.

    Thanks for reading Kevin.

  4. Riverina Rocket says

    Good work Ian.

    Laurie Pendrick is rated by his peers as the best player of his era in Riverina football.
    And as a coach Lozza really proved himself coaching Cooparoo to premierships, and also Queensland to interstate championships.
    Your description of him as over-exuberant and charismatic is so apt.

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