Tribute to Peter Banfield
James MacLeod's recreational pursuits are playing cricket, golf, horse racing, and the Blackburn Football Club of which he is the immediate Past President.
In this blog post, James pays tribute to friend and former coach of the Blackburn Football Club, Peter Banfield...
Tribute to Peter Banfield:
In 2011 Blackburn Football Club seniors made the Preliminary Final. The Reserves made the second Semi Final and Under 19s played in the Grand Final. The Senior Coach Steve Cochrane was planning to step down at the conclusion of the season. He had been with the Club for 3 years as Senior Coach and taken us to two Preliminary Finals.
The position of Senior Coach was advertised in the Herald Sun days after the Preliminary Final and we conducted interviews over the coming weeks.
We had three excellent applicants, all of them had played AFL and two out of three applicants had good coaching credentials. Ultimately the football sub committee of Mike Tuminello, Garry Connelly and I appointed Peter Banfield to the position of Senior Coach for a 2 year term.
Banfield’s credentials were excellent. He played AFL for two clubs, played SANFL, coached Ainslie to three premierships in the ACT AFL league, been Assistant Coach at 3 AFL Clubs and coached in the Amateurs.
Image: Day of appointment BFC, Peter Banfield and James MacLeod
Peter had done his homework on Blackburn during the finals. He had watched all our final games, he had seen that we had an extremely strong supporter base; he saw the unity and the great culture of Blackburn Football Club. He wanted to Coach Blackburn even though he had been offered two other jobs, both in the EFL; he decided he wanted to coach Blackburn before he was even interviewed.
Many people asked me why we went with Banfield and not with the other two candidates, there are a variety of reasons but during pre season I was soon to learn how grateful I was that we went with Banfield. During the finals campaign of 2011 we were involved in a football match were sadly a player from the Balwyn Football Club Shaun Bergin died. Shaun was in a collision and was placed into an induced coma and died some weeks later. This tragedy on its own had an enormous impact on many people and of the players that played in that finals series, only 5 continued to play football at Blackburn Football Club in 2012.
Seventeen players from the Preliminary Final side decided to retire, travel, move interstate, or play in a different league/competition. Our senior list was decimated. Week after week during the pre season we would learn of another player that wasn’t returning to the Blackburn Football Club. Banfield now had a Club that needed to be completely rebuilt. When he signed on for the job it looked like the list just needed a slight top up for us to be premiership contenders.
I remember Banfield saying to me don’t worry about me I am resilient, give me 22 guys and I will start to rebuild this football club. During Season 2012 and Season 2013 that is what Banfield did.
His resilience was amazing. His ability to develop youth is one of his great strengths.
During February of 2012 our Senior Assistant Coach left the Club and we had to find a senior assistant quickly. Garry Connelly, our Football Manager stepped in and coached the Reserves. Assisting Peter also was Brian Winton and Dale Seymour. Both quality individuals and knowledgeable football people. I didn’t really know what to expect in 2012. I knew that we wouldn’t be moving forward from the Preliminary Final of 2011. I wasn’t sure what had happened at other Clubs. I remember going through a fixture and plotting the games we would win and the games we would lose. Two games that I expected us to lose was Vermont at Vermont and Noble Park at Noble Park. We had just lost to Balwyn and Banfield said we need to mix things up this week, why not bring all the guys over to your place for dinner he said. So he told the blokes to bring their running gear to training and they all went for a run. Banfield got them in the middle of the road in a big circle out the front of Louise and my place and got them to sing the Blackburn theme song. He said something along the lines of the President hasn’t heard that song for a while then he asked the Captain Prenda to come and see if we were home and if they could come in for a drink. Louise had cooked up a storm. About 40 blokes piled through the door. We had the fire pits going in the back yard, table and chairs set up for them and Louise had cooked every possible known curry for them.
That night we talked about Vermont. Banfield’s brother David had coached them to 5 Premierships so he knew all about them. Blackburn had been on the end of whippings from them for donkey’s years and it had only been in recent years where we defeated them under Steve Cochrane. Graham Johns a life member and a tremendous Premiership player for the Blackburn Football Club spoke about Vermont and how they would be expecting to beat us. Graham told the group he had only experienced winning at Vermont once in his football career. We hatched a plan to beat them on that weekend and no one in the EFL record in fact probably no one in the EFL community gave Blackburn a chance on that day but Banfield did, the playing group did and our supporters did. It was a cold overcast day and we lead the entire game until we got to the final 90 seconds and Vermont hit the front. Their supporters had been silent all day and then they became very vocal. I remember watching the game with my great mate Schuey, Fr Ernie Smith and highly regarded local football reporter Paul Hooper. I remember the knot I got in my guts when they hit the front. The ball went back to the centre. Big Mars got it down to Brad Murray who got it into our forward line and somehow got it into the hands of Izzy who from the boundary snapped a magnificent goal. Blackburn was back in front with seconds to go. The siren sounded, this was one of the great wins of Blackburn in the modern era. Vermont had been done by a bunch of kids and a coach that developed them and believed in them.
Images: 1. Izzy celebrates his winning goal with the boys 2. The Final Siren Sounds! 3. A very happy coach and president
The other game that I thought we would lose through the year was against Noble Park. Noble Park had always been a tough venue for the Blackburn Football Club. Similar to Vermont we had led all day. In the last quarter we would get in front they would get in front. Finally with seconds to go after scoring a point they kicked the ball in. Our part time ruckman Winnie had been known to take a grab or two took the most magnificent screamer 60 metres out, he put the ball straight into the goal square. Not known for his forward skills Sammy McCauley took the ball off hands and snapped the winning goal. Once again supporters and all concerned stood around in disbelief. But the planning and the effort that went into beating Noble Park that week by Banfield was first class.
2013 looked promising. One of the big games we organised for the year was against East Burwood on ANZAC day. It was an enormous day at Blackburn. A great game where we just got home by a few points. The scoreboard was wrong at the end, I thought we had lost. Given the scoreboard attendant who happened to be an injured East Burwood player had just messed up the scores. It was corrected after the final siren. It was a fantastic win.
At the conclusion of 2013 we went to reappoint Peter Banfield and give him a pay increase. He refused the pay increase and said use it to put towards players.
In Season 2014 the Club had enormous recruitment drive which saw the Club finish 4th and play finals.
Sadly in 2015 there were many injuries and will see Blackburn just finish outside the five.
From where I sit the Blackburn Football Club would not still be in Division 1 had it not been for us having an experienced Senior Coach in Banfield in seasons 2012/2013.
Whilst Banfield’s name will not be on the Honour Board at the Blackburn Football Club with a premiership beside his name, I will always be personally indebted and the Blackburn Football Club should be grateful for the great work that Banfield did over his four years, but in particular for the work he did in 2012/2013. Peter Banfield has played a major role in strengthening our football club with the development of youth over his four years.
Image: Peter Banfield being interviewed by Brian Martin OAM
We have over 10 players playing on VFL lists this year. We have played over 40 players and we continue to give youth a go. It was important to take the time to reflect on Peter’s four years, acknowledge his great contribution and wish him well in his football in moving forward.
Peter I thank you and I salute you.
Blackburn Football Club
Written by James MacLeod - Managing Director, Tobin Brothers Funerals