Most footballers at our club do not remember the Autumn of 1976 – a whole generation has since passed.
Six months earlier, the fall of Saigon had signalled the end of the Vietnam War. Malcolm Fraser was the Australian Prime Minister, Star Wars didn’t exist and The Four Seasons were sitting comfortably at number 1 on the Billboard charts.
1976 was also the first year Bill Papas volunteered as a Northbridge FC coach.
After more than 42 years with the club, Papas was presented with a Rotary Community Service Award at the Northbridge Golf Club on Wednesday evening.
In the presence of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and his wife Georgina (pictured right), dozens of admirers expressed their appreciation and respect for the veteran coach and full-time barber.
“There were people there that I’ve been cutting their hair since the early eighties,” said Papas.
“People came up to me telling me that I used to coach their son 30 years ago – it was quite overwhelming actually.”
Despite the multiple premierships and championship victories over the decades, the most gratifying memory for Papas comes from a recent season, featuring some of the most exceptional emerging talent in the club.
“[What] sticks out most is the 2015 premiership; the U15 representative girls team,” said Papas.
“We were undefeated and were playing against girls in the NSW Institute of Sport team, which now holds about ten of the current U20s Matildas team.
“To beat a national team in the Grand Final was probably the most enjoyable, honourable memory.”
Papas believes the ongoing development of a stable women’s program is the most significant change at Northbridge FC through the years – along with the topnotch facilities, he is confident the club will become a football powerhouse.
“The women’s program has grown to be the best I’ve ever seen it,” said Papas.
“The facilities here at Northbridge here are A+… it used to be a dirt track when I used to play.”
“The club has grown in stature and also in player numbers as well, from maybe ten teams in the whole club to 3,000 playing members.”
“It’s probably the biggest club in terms of numbers participating in the whole country, and that’s massive.”
This season, Papas is mentoring and consulting the North Shore Mariners WNPL Reserves team. While the future remains undecided for Papas, he intends to continue contributing to the club – both as a coach and a player – for as long as his body will allow.
“I’ve coached at the club since 1976; I’ve been a player here since 1971.”
“I’m edging 60 now – I suppose at this point, as much as I love it, we go a year-to-year proposition.”
“If the body holds up, I’ll continue playing – if my health still stands, I continue coaching.”