More than six decades have passed since Don Fairless, Bob Dowdell and David Serafini held aloft the premiership trophy, but they remember the game like it was yesterday.
All three were part of the Shepparton East premiership team that took home the trophy in 1948.
The trio have been reunited in the past month after Mr Fairless and Mr Serafini joined Mr Dowdell at Kialla Gardens’ Banksia Lodge.
It is a good fit for the three gentleman, who frequently reminisce about memories from their football days.
“I came here because I know there wer other Shepparton East people (both from the area and the football team),” Mr Fairless said.
For born and bred East Sheppartonians Mr Fairless and Mr Serafini, their passion for the game started while at Shepparton East Primary School on an uneven, swampy field.
Mr Serafini remembers playing on the ground among plant vines following the Depression.
“They’d planted rows from when they were growing tomatoes,” he said.
Eventually, the ground, now Central Park, was modernised and levelled with the hard yakka of nearby residents and their tractors.
“All the orchardists were loyal to Shepparton East and it made a world of difference,” Mr Dowdell said.
Mr Serafini said he had been recruited to play on the school’s team against Lemnos, Grahamvale and Orrvale.
“I was the only one who could kick the ball from the centre of the field right out to the road,” he said.
In 1948, the trio were part of the team that took home the premiership in the Central Goulburn Valley Football League after beating SPC at Deakin Reserve.
Mr Fairless said that year there were only five teams in the competition – SPC, Shepparton East, Tatura, The Shepparton Harriers and the Christian Young Mens Side.
Mr Dowdell only played one season, while Mr Serafini and Mr Fairless played for a number of years before moving on or retiring.
For Mr Dowdell, his football fitness was already well established by the time he arrived at Shepparton East from Melbourne as an officer with Victoria Police.
“Bob used to play for North Melbourne,” Mr Fairless said.
“I had a few runs for North Melbourne, mainly in the reserves. Then I moved to Northcote,” Mr Dowdell said.
“I was going to play for a different club, but my sergeant said ‘If you don’t play for Shepparton East, you don’t get time off to play at all’.”
For Mr Serafini, his football fame was yet to come.
“I had a few runs with St Kilda,” he said.
Decades later, the three premiership players still relish time spent watching their favourite club play their favourite game.
Mr Fairless, 87, and Mr Serafini, 91, still watch the club’s games almost every weekend, while Mr Dowdell, 97, gets to as many as he can.
The trio fondly remembers fierce on-field rivalries with Murray Slee, their captain Pat Dalton – “a great footballer” – and naturally, all the good times.
A fourth member of the premiership team and fellow Banksia Lodge resident, Jack Phillips, sadly died last year.
Mr Dowdell remembers telling Mr Phillips he needed to show him a special photo – it was the team photo from the 1948 premiership.
“One day I went to show him, and he lifted up the lid of his walker frame and pulled out the same photo. He’d carried it with him every day.” Mr Dowdell said.
By Jenna Bishop - As published in the Shepparton News, Thursday, January 22, 2015