One of the truly great characters and an icon to the Game.
The above words reflect the high regard in which Peter (Turtle) Stewart was held in the world of Football in East Gippsland.
Peter has been involved in every aspect of football, including playing in the Tambo Valley Rural Football Association, coaching VicKick/Aus Kick, acting as an administrator with the Bairnsdale and District Junior Football Association, the Lakes Entrance Football Netball Club and the Swan Reach Football Netball Club (Life Member), playing Senior Football with the Lakes Entrance Football Netball Club (Life Member), as well as being a club boundary umpire in his youth and more recently acting as a goal umpire and Umpires Advocate with the East Gippsland Umpires Association.
Peter was awarded Life Membership of the Bairnsdale and District Junior Football Association in 2003.
He joined the B&DJFA Executive in 1990, taking on the role of Secretary, a position he then held continuously until the end of the 1994 season.
Peter began playing competition football in 1964 when he played for Lakes Rovers in the Tambo Valley Rural Football Association. He recalls riding his bike to Kalimna to get a lift to the games. He also has fond memories of playing at Stephenson's Paddock at Nungurner and getting changed in a chook shed, having bicycles as goal posts and hay bales as the boundary. Peter played for one year, being too old in 1965 for the Under 15 competition.
Peter became a boundary umpire in the Gippsland Football League and recalls being paid 10 shiilings a game.
In 1968 he went to play for Lakes Entrance Senior Club. His first coach was Barry Burrows, a Physical Education teacher at Bairsdale High School. He recalls playing his first senior game against Ivan Cartledge from Stratford. At the time Peter was 10 stone 2 lbs and he recalls being on the end of some hidings from bigger and stronger opponents.
Peter transferred from Lakes Entrance to Ballarat in 1976 and played in the Ballarat District Football League with Buninyong. He was only able to play ten games as he was on shift work at the time.
In 1977 he moved to Morwell and went back to play for Lakes Entrance from 1978 until 1980, travelling to Lakes Entrance from Morwell each weekend.
At the end of his playing days Peter became the Lakes Entrance Club Runner and Team Manager for eight years. He recalls many pleasant trips to Merimbula.
Then Peter became Secretary of the Lakes Entrance Senior Club for four years and was on the Committee for many years.
Later he went to Swan Reach as Secretary for nine years.
Peter was awarded Life Membership of the Lakes Entrance Senior Club in the early 1980s and then was awarded Life Memebership of Swan Reach in 2004.
During these years Peter also conducted VicKick and AusKick clinics every Saturday morning at St. Brendans Primary School, taking the Prep and Grade Ones. He fondly recalls a young player named Xavier Ellis turning up at AusKick. Xavier was very light and looked pale. He was matched up with a far bigger boy and Peter remembers worrying that Xavier would get hurt. Xavier progressed through AusKick, the B&DJFA, the EGFNL and Gippsland Power to be drafted by Hawthorn in the AFL and become a member of the Premiership team.
Peter also organised AusKick grid games at half time in the EGFNL senior games.
Peter recalls the Inter league trips with the B&DJFA , taking 40 players to Yarram and later Devon. After a late night before the trip (got to bed at 2:30 a.m. after a night with the mates) he was a little worse for wear on arrival at Yarram. With Kevin Barling and Dale West in charge Peter went looking for a quick freshener to help his recovery. He booked up the drinks to the Alberton and District Junior Football League but eventually got a bill from them.
During the time Peter was Secretary the B&DJFA introduced a number of innovative initiatives, policies, procedures and by-laws designed to encourage player participation.
One of the key initiatives was an Insurance Scheme for players, a forerunner to the present VCFL/JLT Scheme. The scheme was based on all ten member clubs contributing a nominal amount for four years, to establish a financial base of $10,000, and then a yearly premium was charged per club. The pay out for injuries was up to $500 above MediCare. Prior to the setting up of the scheme Peter went to Dandenong to find out how to set one up, visiting International Exchange Association. Lyman Trethowan then set up the Insurance Scheme, paying up to 90% of non-MediCare, up to $1,500 per injury, with 52 weeks of the year coverage.
The only fund raiser conducted by the B&DJFA was the final’s series, which were organised by the Life Members and Executive. The clubs operated the canteen and provided stewards. Volunteers acted as gatekeepers and umpires. The money raised from the finals enabled the B&DJFA to cover all costs for the next season (Umpires, Inter league etc.) and thus reduced the operating cost for each member club. Each club only had to pay an annual membership of $100. This enabled the clubs to keep player registrations to a minimal cost. It also enabled struggling clubs to survive and also enabled a wide cross section of people to continue to participate in football. Also during the finals club representatives acted as officials wearing blue coats to ensure that a safe playing environment was maintained. The B&DJFA also introduced the flying of the club pennants for the Grand Final, adding colour and a high degree of professionalism to the day.
Another initiative was to set a limit on the number of players a club could register. The Under 15s had a limit of 22 players and the Under 13s had a limit of 28. This was designed to encourage players to play with the out of town clubs who were often struggling for numbers. Players who came up through the junior ranks of a club would retain the right to play for their own club. However players wishing to play for another club would have to gain approval from the Executive. This was designed to prevent the stronger clubs from becoming stronger and provided the opportunity for a wide range of clubs to taste premiership success.
The B&DJFA also
implemented a yellow and red card Send Off system, which included an automatic one-week suspension for any player issued with two cards in the season.
enforced an automatic send off for audible obscene language, with an automatic one week suspension. This was designed to instil a high level of discipline in players.
introduced a 15 metre penalty for the Under 12s/13s and a 30 metre penalty for the Under 15s/16s as opposed to a 50 metre.
introduced a white line in front of the coac's box to keep club officials back from the boundary line.
introduced a choice of either regular or wet weather footballs on days when the grounds were wet or heavy.
introduced equalisation of the number of players on the ground.
implemented a no slinging rule.
implemented a no undue rough play rule (no shirt fronts).
implemented a Code of Conduct to deal with club officials, parents and spectators.
implemented its own Independent Tribunal and also had an Investigations Officer.
implemented a no kicking off the ground rule for the Under 12s/13s along with a one bounce rule.
provided jumper subsidies to clubs and also provided financial support to players in Schoolboys squads as well as players in Inter league squads.
In 1998 the B&DJFA decided that they would move to an Independent Executive. Thus no longer could a club representative be on the Executive.
The rotation of the position of president was introduced in 1999 when John Sharrock, from the Swan Reach JFC was elected.
The president was permitted to stay on in the position for a second year and thus in 2000 and 2001 Trevor Bourke from the Bairnsdale JFC held the position.
Peter continued to be involved in football, goal umpiring with the East Gippsland Umpires Association.
His involvement in football spanned 42 years, covering almost every aspect of the game. That Turtle was viewed by everyone as one of the truly great characters and an icon to the Game reflects the high esteem in which he is held.
Thank you Turtle for everything you have done for football. East Gippsland football has been greatly enriched by your time with us.
Sadly Peter passed away on 22nd December 2017.