Barry Connolly - 2016
In many areas around Australia there is always someone who stands out as a football personality. Someone who might be referred to as “Mr. Football”. In the Goulburn Valley over a thirty year period there was one man that fitted that title very well – Barry Connolly.
Barry was a larger than life character who promoted football every day of his life. He received so much enjoyment out of the game he loved and put so much enthusiasm into.
Barry was raised in Benalla and played junior football where he came under notice when he captained the GV Schoolboys team to a championship in Melbourne. He played senior football with Benalla at 15 and was obviously going to be a top player.
He was recruited by the Footscray Bulldogs where he played under Ted Whitten in 1958 and 59. However Barry didn’t like City Life much and was homesick for the country. He was also missing his Benalla sweetheart Monica and he accepted an offer from the City United Club in Shepparton to captain the Demons under Kevin Kenna’s coaching and leave the Bulldogs.
So 1960 saw Barry marry Monica and settle in Shepparton as a United player. The next year United changed coaches and Barry became Vice Captain under a new coach – notorious former North Melbourne captain John Brady.
1962 saw the Connolly’s make the big move north as Barry became the coach of the Ardlethan in the South West League of New South Wales. Barry was a big hit and spent three years coaching Ardlethan. He was chosen as Captain of the New South Wales State team due to his performance with the South West League. He also started a junior football competition at Ardlethan.
He returned to Victoria in 1966 and spent the next four years as coach of Nathalia. He was proud to play a part in the preparation of Nathalia player Francis Burke as a top line player with the Richmond Tigers. He also started a junior football competition in Nathalia. He stepped down as coach and took on the role of Assistant Coach for three years then coached the Waaia bombers for the 1973 season. Barry and Monica had purchased the Branditt Ave. milk bar in Shepparton so it wasn’t surprising to see Barry get into the Shepparton football scene. He took on the assistant Coaching role with Shepparton under former Fitzroy player Bill Sykes. He even played a few games with the reserves when they were short.
1975 saw him join Len Timms as joint coach of Invergordon, but over the next year he took on umpiring with the Goulburn Valley Football Umpires Association. He also did some coaching of junior football and it followed that he would become sought after as a GVL under 18 coach. It was the Shepparton United Club that gained his services as coach of their under 18 team which included Barry’s son Chris who would make a name for himself as an AFL player and Coach. Chris would play 122 games with the Melbourne Demons and coach the Freemantle Football Club.
This was to be Barry’s most successful time as coach when the Demons thirds won flags in 1977, 79, 80 and 81 winning 48 games straight. He was also chosen to coach the GV’s Teal Cup squad.
Barry was keen to see United succeed as a club and took on the role as Club President from 1978 – 1980. He presided over a GVFL senior premiership for the Demons in 1980 The team included Barry’s son Chris. He missed the on ground contact with the game and returned to coaching with the United seniors in 1983 and 84.
Barry attended GVL meetings and became interested in the administration of football. He spent three years as Vice President of the League and was elevated to the position of President in 1985, a position he would hold until 2002.
Barry was the perfect man for the job. He used his vast experience to lead the way and ruled the league with a strong hand. He was known as “Mister Football” and became the most noted football personality in the Goulburn Valley. The League prospered under his leadership and Barry enjoyed the role immensely.
Barry stepped down as Chairman in 2002 and brought to a close an amazing football life which included playing or coaching 403 games, playing in 42 representative matches, touring England, Ireland and Scotland as an official with Harry Bietzel’s Galahs team, He received Life Membership at Shepparton United, the GVFL, a VCFL medal and an Australian medal for services to football.
So tonight we honour our own “Mr Football” as we induct Barry Connolly as an administrator extraordinaire into the GVL Hall of Fame.