The Watson family’s contribution to the Rochester Football/Netball Club is legendary. The late Rod Watson played 208 senior games. Brother David played 94 and current player Ashley has played over 200 games and won the 2015 Morrison Medal.
However tonight, the GVL honours 302 game player Bruce Watson for his 50 years of service and incredible support to his beloved Tigers.
Bruce played his first senior game as a 15 year old when Rochester were the “Demons” in the Bendigo League. However he soon found himself without a club, when Rochester spent a year out of football in 1972 because it was denied a transfer to the GVL, Bruce joined some Rochester mates at Stanhope for a year and transferred back to Rochester when the club re-formed as the Tigers in the Goulburn Valley League in 1973.
It was a hard task for the new Tiger team which lacked experience, but the local lads stuck together and after some years played finals football.
Bruce played wherever he was needed, as a rover, sometimes alongside his brothers when at times they made up the entire centreline. He was fortunate to rove to the first class ruckman Ron “Yakka” Haring who gave him great opportunities to clear the ball from the centre.
Bruce completed a Sports Science degree, living in Melbourne for 4 years and often hitch hiked or arranged rides home to play football. Even when he was teaching at Robinvale he continued to play with the tigers driving the 4 hour trip each way every weekend. It was a wonderful example to the local Rochester lads to see such dedication to the club.
Bruce captained Rochester 3 times under 3 different coaches as the Tigers progressed in their new League. He made a name for himself as a goal sneak whilst resting in the forward pocket.
Bruce was second in the Rochester Best and fairest award 3 times and regularly finished in the top 5.
In 1980, luckily for the Tigers, Bruce successfully applied for the position as a Phys. Ed. Teacher at Rochester Secondary College where he worked until his retirement in 2015. This gave him the opportunity to extend his involvement with football and nurture the local lads as they commenced their football careers.
Following the 1989 season, Bruce suffered an ankle injury whilst playing cricket which forced his retirement from playing football after 302 senior games. He was the first Rochester player to play 300 games. His retirement as a player led to the commencement of his contribution as a coach and administrator for his club, supporting the game he loved.
Backed by his wonderful wife Karen who was busy helping the ladies committee, Bruce quickly moved into assisting the under 18’s and in the seniors coaching box. In 1991 he took over the coaching responsibilities with the under 18’s as well as becoming a senior selector and match day assistant to the senior coach. He continued to coach the under 18 team for more than 200 games, making the finals in 5 of those seasons and in 1996 Bruce coached the young tigers to the clubs only under 18s premiership. At the end of that season he was awarded the GVL and GV region youth coach of the year award.
With the appointment of David Williams as senior coach Bruce continued his role as chairman of the match committee and match day assistant to David. From 1989 to 2008 Rochester played in 11 grand finals winning 3 and only missing the finals once. Rochester had become a force in GV football. One reason for that was that many young Rochester players followed Bruce’s example and continued to play with the Tigers during their studies or in their early working life.
As well as coaching the under 18’s and assisting the senior coach, Bruce joined the Tigers general committee in 1990 and has continued for 30 consecutive years. During that time he has been club secretary 3 times for a total of 21 years including the last ten. He is still the secretary today. He also provides live match scores for all grades on match day.
Bruce has been given wonderful support from his wife Karen as they have watched their children be involved with the club. Daughter Caitlin played netball with the Tigerettes and son Ashley is in the twilight of his football career after playing over 200 games with the Tigers.
Bruce was awarded qualified Life Membership of the GVL and Life Membership of the Rochester Football/Netball Club.
The GVL was greatly enhanced after Rochester stood out of football for a year to ensure they could join the League. The Tigers have been a wonderful club, including the only player to play 400 games in Tank McPhee, along with 300 game players Simon McCarty and Bruce Watson. How lucky the Tigers were that a home grown lad in Bruce Watson dedicated himself and his family to provide an unbelievable amount of time and effort to support the fortunes of the club. Is it any wonder that Rochester has become a greatly valued member of the GVL. The Goulburn Valley League salutes Bruce Watson for his amazing contribution to the game and his club. The League now honours this wonderful clubman with induction into the GVL Hall of Fame.