Gibson Football Club will toast a milestone of grass roots football this weekend when they celebrate 60 years as a club.
From a couple of blokes down the local pub reminiscing about playing football in Victoria, to having a strong membership base and boasting top place on the ladder this season, the club has come a long way.
The first coach and one of the founders of the club Robert Dunn who now lives in Victoria took time to look back on the club’s early years.
He said at that stage there were four teams in the competition; Esperance, Salmon Gums, Grass Patch and Gibson.
He and co-workers Peter Lane and Russell Taylor moved to Esperance in 1955 to work as surveyors to open up the farming land.
“I arrived there with a survey party in 1955 when they were doing the land development for the land scheme over there and we were to survey two million acres of land,” Mr Dunn said.
“The 15 government surveyors camped at the arboretum just near the aerodrome and we and our wives had our caravans parked near the pines beside the Soak Hotel.
“One night after work, one Friday night, a couple of us were talking to another Victorian who was the manager or the representative of Chamberlain tractors there.
“We were talking about Melbourne football and Moggy Bow who was the Mr Esperance at that time – he was everything he was an auctioneer, he was a butcher, he was president of the Esperance Football Club – and he broke into our conversation.
“He said ‘well now there’s all you fellas here from the survey party, why don’t you form a football team here and join the Esperance competition and if you can, I’ll supply the jumpers and the gear for you’.
“So we chatted among ourselves and there was only three of the surveyors who wanted to play football
“So we recruited three or four chaps from the research farm and then there were quite a number of young farmers coming in to occupy some of the blocks we’d already surveyed.
“We ended up getting about 18 chaps that were interested in playing and Bill Paterson who was a noted person in Esperance at that time – I think he was Shire President for quite a number of years and he lived in the Mallee and played football in the Mallee – and he decided that if we wanted he would play with us and he would know all the quirk of all the players that played in the league.
“He and I joined together and we got a team together of 18.
“I’d played football in Victoria before I went over there and I’d been coached by some of the best coaches when I was a kid.
“Bill Paterson was a very tall man – he was about six foot five in height – and he was quite an astute footballer.
“So he played at one end of the ground and I played at the other.
“He would look after everyone in the goal end of the ground and I operated in the back-line and I coached all the players who were there.
“Most of the chaps that were playing had played football of some kind in different places.
“Some of them coming from New South Wales had only played rugby.
“Moggy was as good as his word he came and gave us a supply of football jumpers.
“Then the publican there Kath Walker could see dollar signs flashing around the place with a football team in the place so they suggested we use a section of land just north of the Soak, between the main road and the railway line.
“There was a big of a paddock there and that was the football ground for our start, for us to use.
“The only thing we had erected there was a dwelling for the ladies to serve afternoon tea in.
“It was about six foot by eight foot and made of tea-tree and they would serve afternoon tea to supporters every game.
“They had a little cooper beside it and a little tank on the side of the building to catch any rain that fell on the roof of it.
“I think there were about 16 people living in Gibson at that stage and I see now that the latest figures over there is about 500 for Gibson.
“I think at the time there was 1500 people living in Esperance and I think now that figure is at 10,000 or more.
“The locals supported us very well, everyone in the district came around.
“All the new people who were taking up blocks of land they all called into the Soak to find out where they’re blocks were and they would wander up to see our games.
“So we normally had a good crowd and quite a few women in the area started up netball and they would play beside the ground while we were playing.
“The first year we played we won the premiership.
“After we won the first premiership in our first year I stayed there for two more years before I went back to Victoria.”