Phil De Young arrived home recently from a day at the football where the scoreboard had not been his friend. Monash Blues’ six teams had all lost, and the club’s President experienced a rare bout of melancholy. “I’m spending 20 to 25 hours a week with the club and we lose all six games,” he pondered. “Why do I bother?”
A night’s sleep cleared the fog and reminded him why, at 70, he’s still giving back to the club that first embraced him in 1965.
“I woke up and thought, here’s the bottom line – we had over 140 men and women running around playing a game of footy that was well-run, well umpired, with good coaching, good support, and they were all having fun and making friends. We were providing something for them.”
It warms De Young all the more that, in this, nothing has changed.
He remembers lower-grade amateur football in the mid-’60s as “a rough and tumble, poorly umpired, shambolic sort of thing compared to today”. He’s seen registration numbers balloon to 240, three teams swell to six, including a women’s side, and Monash Blues become one of the Victorian Amateur Football Association’s biggest clubs. They train more professionally now, go in harder and seek to ape the AFL, but the esprit de corps is as you were.
De Young reckons he could count on one hand those who, over more than five decades, did not live up to the club’s ethos and had to be weeded out. “I seriously claim this a lot: the culture, the ethos, the vibe of the club in 2017 – play the game seriously but don’t take yourself seriously – is pretty much the same as it was.”
He played 200 games while embarking on a career in education that took him to Wesley, Caulfield Grammar and ultimately eight years as principal of Carey Grammar. Son Nick played 180 games for Monash; De Young and wife Rosemary met when they were students at what was then called “The Farm”, and were married on campus. The place is in his marrow.
Losing roughly 60 per cent of games as a player and then working his way through the full gamut of administrative roles hasn’t quelled his enthusiasm. He treasures the current crop, who might see him cleaning the kitchen, umpiring the women’s game, whatever is needed, and say: “Thanks for what you’re doing.”
All are in step with Sir John Monash’s selfless ethos, not least De Young. “I could do something for my footy club every day of my life and still not repay them.”
For a fortnightly email digest of stories from Lens