Blast from the Past

Brunswick Zebras FC has been a long time supporter of women’s football going right back to the 1980s when Mercy College Coburg art teacher Noel Bruzzese started up a team at the club, largely featuring girls from his school.

The team was very successful, rising to the Victorian Women’s Premier League and nurturing players who went to to play at national and international level, including internationals Melissa “Bubs” Barbieri, Louisa Bisby and Nicky Leitch. In addition, Gabby Angelucci and Daniella Di Giammarco played for Victoria Vision in the original National Women’s Soccer League.

Goalkeeper Bubs went on to be Matildas captain earning 87 caps for her country. These days Melissa is coaching NPLW Heidelberg United senior team, Louisa is working for Melbourne City FC as manager of the women’s program. Nicky is Executive Officer of the Hume Whittlesea Local Learning and Employment Network and assists her husband former Socceroo Jeff Olver with his goalkeeping academy Football Zone Coaching.

Nicky Leitch said recently that the Zebras team of that era had a lot of fun.  “It was great to play with some really talented young players”, she said.  “We challenged the established, traditionally powerful clubs and tried to wrestle the top spot away from them.  Our rivalry with Berwick City/Dandenong City was really intense.  They had some top players, including internationals like Jane Oakley and Debbie Nichols so it was a great test for our youngsters.”

Nicky said she loved her time at Sumner Park and as an older player in the team she became involved in mentoring and coaching players who went on to represent Victoria, play in the women’s national leagues for Victoria Vision and later Melbourne Victory and even represent Australia.


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