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Dr. Simon Costello
At the 2014 Season Launch Dinner of the Victorian Amateur Football Association held on Wednesday evening 26th March, 2014, the respected paediatrician, Dr Simon Costello, was awarded life membership of the V.A.F.A. following in the footsteps of his father, Dr Brian Costello (also a medical practitioner) whom over many years had been a wonderful contributor to the life and times of University football and to the Association.
Dr Costello Senior has established an enduring tradition between his family and University Blacks with 6 sons and 3 grandsons all donning the boots for the black and royal blue.
There are few life members of the Association and Simon’s award is richly deserved.
In 1941, the famed H Class Locomotive H220 known as “Heavy Harry” was built at the Newport Workshops. It was the largest and heaviest steam locomotive in the Victorian railways fleet, the largest steam locomotive built in Australia and the heaviest non-articulated steam locomotive in the southern hemisphere.
Simon, who was educated at Xavier College, Kew (where, in light of the striking resemblance, he was nicknamed “Harry”) and within the University of Melbourne (although, in departing from the traditional rite of passage, resided across the Crescent at Ormond College), was a star footballer for Blacks playing 248 games; captaining Blacks in 1976; winning 4 Cordner Medals; representing our State at Amateur level and named as an All Australian Amateur; and playing in the Blacks’ 1974 (and last) A Grade premiership side.×
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Harry captained the University’s Intervarsity team and was awarded a Full Blue for football. He was named on the half-back flank in the Melbourne University Football Club’s Team of the Modern Era.
Bursting open packs with the power of the largest locomotive in the land and treating the half-back line as his own personal fiefdom, Harry’s proud boast was and remains that he never went to the gym and never played a match in the Reserve Grade!
Of course, Harry’s association with the Blacks continued beyond his playing days and continues to this day. In the Eighties and Nineties, he remained heavily involved in the Blacks’ administration and was a regular attendee at matches together with his then wife, the lovely and much loved (and late) Jude, and their three children although I must confess to being a little taken aback when on a cold July day I happened to look up and see a 5 or 6 year old Evie perched precariously on the apex of the roof of the Pavvy!
Despite by then being well and truly established as a Blacks’ legend, in the early Nineties, the value of Harry’s stocks soared amongst the playing group with the arrival in town of Jude’s attractive, desirable, engaging and very single younger sister who proved a welcome distraction and who created a competition on far more in earnest than the then on-field performance. History records, however, that in the vast bulk of cases, advances were justifiably rebuffed and affections justifiably withheld and Jude’ sister left town with her reputation intact and a trail of broken hearts behind her
Participation in a football competition necessarily dictates that success is measured by the performance of the senior team and solely by winning football matches. In the Nineties, the Blacks’ senior team won few matches with the result that Blacks slipped through the grades descending as low as E Grade. On one view these were dark days indeed.
However, the luncheon in celebration of Andy Smith’s 50 years of continued service to Blacks proved that, in truth, there were no dark days at the Blacks only an albeit sustained period of time when, for a range of reasons, we were unable to assemble the talented footballers that historically we had and currently have. Although it is manifestly preferable to play in the highest grade and that is and should always remain the aim, distinctions were, are and will not be drawn between a Blacks’ era which produces an A Grade premiership and one which produces an E Grade premiership. In the dark days (and as it continues to do), Blacks remained a happy, vibrant place, continued to house a group of intelligent, able and talented young men (and women) and maintained the unique culture for which Blacks are renowned.×
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It is no surprise that during this period Harry was Chairman and otherwise contributed significantly to the change of conditions which resulted in the renaissance of the Blacks in terms of its on-field performance, improved administration and the return of Ray Wilson.
In the mid-2000’s, Harry was elected President of the M.U.F.C. a post which he held for 5 years. The fruits of his work are to be seen in the construction of the new pavilion, a project on which the Board of Management has been engaged for nearly 10 years and which has been embraced by John Carmody, current President of the M.U.F.C. At the V.A.F.A. Dinner, John, himself, was awarded a Certificate of Merit for his many years of valuable and honorary service to Blues, Old Xaverians and latterly the M.U.F.C. although when pressed (especially at a Blacks’ function) he will concede that his true claim to fame is that his brother, Roger, played for Blacks.
A busy professional man and a family man, in recent years Harry has found time to be a roving ambassador for the V.A.F.A. Harry’s continuing role with the Association is part of an established and continuing tradition of involvement of University players and officials with the affairs of the Association evidenced by the naming of the Alex Johnson Pavilion at Elsternwick Park in honour of Alex Johnson, a former Blacks’ Chairman and President of the M.U.F.C. (and grandfather of the Sydney footballer of the same name) and that the late Peter O’Donohue was and Alf Keam, Ian Munro and Ross Booth are life members of the Association.
It is in the nature of an institution like a football club that as we mourn the passing of one favourite son we celebrate the achievements of another. In each case, the contribution of Jack Clancy and Simon Costello to the prosperity of the Blacks has been remarkable.
Although the gorgeous and vivacious Rosie, his children, the Cats and his golf clubs provide stiff competition for Harry’s affections, as I suspect for many of us, the Blacks remain his first, one and only true love!
A.M. Donald, General Secretary, M.U.F.C.×