In today’s edition of the Barrier Truth, we present the final part of our conversation with West Panthers and Broken Hill Soccer Association legend George Bugeja.
Before we delve into the concluding portion of our article, here’s a tribute from Broken Hill City Mayor and West Panthers’ life member, Tom Kennedy.
“George has always been really committed to the West Panthers. He’s also been on the board of the soccer association, often at different times for numerous years, which allowed him to become a life member of the Broken Hill Soccer Association.”
“If it weren’t for George, the BHSA would quite possibly have folded at different times. He leaves very big shoes to fill.”
“His retirement will leave a very big gap for me, personally. I have a lot of respect for George. I like the way he coaches. He gives players a go but coaches to win simultaneously.”
BARRIER TRUTH: Outside of the clean sweep of 2007, do you have any other highlights from your coaching career?
GEORGE BUGEJA: Several times my A Grade team has gone through undefeated – unfortunately I don’t have all the details but believe it or not most of the boys that were part of that were from that original combined team. They started when they were six or seven years old and some even still are playing now.
BT: Which ones are still part of the club now?
GB: Zane Kemp is the one that springs to mind. He lived up the road from us, so he didn’t have a choicer – he was always playing for West (laughs). There are others too – Shane Heywood, Jimmy Simons, Joe Langdon.
BT: Wow that is incredible!
GB: (laughs) They’re probably all ready to retire now.
BT: What is the secret to your coaching longevity?
GB: There’s a lot to it, I’ve always kept the same coaching methods from under sixes all the way through to A Grade.
I have had players come to me at times and ask, “why are we doing this?” because I like to take the first couple of months of training back to basics. Simple passing and dribbling drills. You always must start with that because when it comes to matchday it makes a huge difference on how much possession and good quality balls you can play.
BT: And I am sure you have picked stuff up from other coaches along the way.
GB: I have had a lot of good coaches work with me over the years. One I’d like to mention is Bob Hawes. Not only was he a great help to me, but we are very good friends.
BT: With this huge legacy you have in football, I am sure it bled through to your kids – why don’t you tell us a little about each of them.
GB: All my kids played. Chad and Johnny played professionally. Chad played for Adelaide United he was such a versatile attacker – he could play anywhere up front. Johnny played in the Solomon Islands, he was a midfielder and attacker. George had try-outs for professional clubs too. He was a hardnosed defender. Linda was a good player too, a very good striker. She played for well over 20 years and does so much for the club still now.
BT: That must make you very proud.
GB: Very proud, mate.
BT: Soccer has been such a massive part of your life, what do you plan to do with all the free time you’ll have on your hands now?
GB: I’ll be around – I am happy to help in an advisory role if the new coach needs me to, but I think I’ll stay away from the pitch. I think it needs to be that way. I think I’ll just enjoy more stuff around home, watch the grandkids play – things like that.
BT: Thanks for your time, George. Anything else you’d like to add mate?
GB: It has been a good journey. It is mainly because of Theresa. I really have to thank her for backing me in every single thing that I have done. She has always supported me. And also my family, I love them all so much.