Meet The Locals: Warren Gillespie From Singleton Strikers FC

Warren Gillespie eats, breathes and dreams soccer.

We caught up with the recently retired Secretary of the Singleton Strikers Football Club for a chat about his decades of service to the club and his love for the beautiful game.

Did you grow up in Singleton?

Yes and no. My dad was in the Army, and we arrived here in Singleton when I was in year 6. We did a couple of years here, then we moved to Coffs Harbour, and then we came back to Singleton. When I was 17 my dad then got offered a posting to Adelaide, where he and Mum are from. I went with them for three weeks, and I didn’t like it. I had friends here, so I moved back on my own. I’ve been here ever since. I just felt more comfortable here in Singleton than I did anywhere else. I’m 48 now, so I guess I’ve spent 30 years here in Singleton.

How did you first get into soccer?

I’ve been playing soccer since I was four or five years old. I made some junior rep teams when I was younger, and some state teams. I joined the senior ranks in under 19s, and then progressed through to first grade, and went on to play more than 300 first grade games. I’m well over 500 club games now. I’m still playing in over 35s on a Friday night. I just love the game of football.

You were Secretary of the Singleton Strikers Football Club for 20 years.

I was always involved in the club, putting up nets on game day, and bits and pieces like that, but then our club Secretary at the time was stepping down and they needed a Secretary. I guess you could say at that time it was a relatively easy job. You only had a couple of teams to look after. So I put my hand up, and 20 years later, I thought, “Geez, I’m still here.” The club’s grown substantially over that time. We went from three teams to running 11 teams at our peak.

I enjoyed it. As any volunteer knows, it can be tough. Some years, we couldn’t fill all the positions on the committee, so you’re wearing two or three different hats. You’re Secretary, but you’re doing the President’s role, you’re doing the Football Manager’s role, you’re doing all these different bits and pieces. And I was still playing too.

What does being Secretary entail?

I probably made the Secretary role above and beyond what a normal Secretary’s role is. But the basic Secretary role would be scheduling the meetings and collecting the minutes, collecting the correspondence from the governing body, Northern New South Wales Football. I was attending meetings with the Federation, getting information out to the players, liaising with the rest of the football committee, trying to find sponsors, et cetera. You need to make sure that when the guys step out on the field to play, that everything off the field is right for them, so they’ve just got to worry about going out and playing.

It sounds like the club has grown a lot.

Yep, certainly. In the early days, it was more of an amateur set up. But the governing body kept adding new teams, and over the last six or seven years, we’ve become more like a small business. I’d say now we’re semi-professional. Players are looked after better than what they were back in the day, and there’s more support. Now we’ve got senior teams, youth teams, all age teams, women’s teams, so it’s certainly grown, which is fantastic.

Tell us about the big grand final win last year.

Well, that was the icing on the cake, wasn’t it? It wasn’t planned that way. I said at the start of last season that I wanted to step down, but there wasn’t much interest in anyone taking over from me. So I ran again, and then COVID hit. It was a tough year. At the end of the day, we were very fortunate to be able to keep playing football. There were a lot of people out there that lost loved ones, and became very sick, so we certainly were aware of all that.

We knew we had a good football team that we had been building for the last couple of years. It all culminated last year, and the football gods shined down on us. To win the grand final was fantastic. The feelings that day, and for the days after, were just… it was hard to believe. You dream about it, and you hope and you pray that all your hard work comes off.

There are a lot of people in the club who have worked very, very hard over the years who deserved a bit of success. When the final whistle went, I definitely shed a tear. Just for the whole football club, and the whole region, the whole community. Support on the day was phenomenal. It really was one of my proudest days on and off the football field.

A very special day. So how are you spending your free time, now that you’re no longer dedicating it all to the club?

Well, I just got married.

Congratulations!

Thank you. So I’m able to spend a bit more time with my wife, Jodie, and a bit more time with the grandkids. Now I can do things that I normally wouldn’t have done. I can go to a friend’s birthday party, instead of saying, “Oh, mate, I’ll be there after soccer.” But saying that, I’m still down there on game days. I’m still helping out the new committee if they need me.

Your love for the game and the club sure does run deep. Thanks for the chat Warren, and congrats on your incredible run with the Strikers.

You can find out more about Singleton Strikers FC at their website.

Photo credits: https://northernnswfootball.com.au/tag/warren-gillespie/

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