In 2006 Aspley Devils successfully applied for entry to the FOGS Cup and FOGS Colts Challenge and were able to use this participation in these competitions as a stepping stone to the vacant twelfth spot in the Queensland Cup in 2007. In December 2006 it was announced that Aspley would replace the Toowoomba Clydesdales in the Queensland Cup and compete as the Aspley Broncos, playing in Aspley colours carrying the Broncos emblem. The venture marked the high point of Aspley’s partnership and indeed, represented the pinnacle of the Club’s football achievements, fielding a team as it did, in the foremost Rugby League competition in Queensland. Changing circumstances meant that Aspley’s appearance at this level was not repeated in 2008. With the introduction of the Toyota Cup, a national competition for players under 20 years of age, and the participation of the Broncos in that competition, the Broncs chose to spread players not required for NRL or Toyota Cup duties across seven of the Queensland Cup teams rather than have a feeder club like the Toowoomba Clydesdales or Aspley Broncos. For the time being Aspleys venture into the Q-Cup was over.
2007 was historic and successful in other ways. In its fortieth year the Club was able to field 33 Junior teams and 7 Senior teams with approximately 700 players pulling on Aspley jerseys. In his annual report President Jim Spletter stated,
“we don’t measure success at Aspley by the number of trophies in our showcase at the end of the season, but by the continual improvement and development of our coaches and players skills, player participation and player enjoyment throughout the Club.”
Nevertheless, at the end of the season the Club celebrated three Chairmans trophies wins, four premierships (U11, U12 Div 1, U12 Div 2 and U16) and the under 7 ALP Shield success. Mark Gee continued his role as Football Operations Manager while Simon Scanlan and Fletcher Holmes again served as Coaching and Development Officers. Under the development program, clinics were run in over a dozen schools in the Aspley region. In conjunction with the clinics a Catholic Primary Schools Challenge was run over and eight week period with over 125 students participating. The Aspley-Broncos Challenge for secondary school students grew again in 2007 with 115 games being played between 32 teams from year 8 to Opens. Coach the coaches was seen again during the year and the annual “Skills Evaluation Clinic” was conducted for all players from under 7’s to Under 12’s. Simon Scanlan reported that the basic skill level of Aspley’s junior players was of a very high standard and that this was one thing that the Club and coaches could be very proud of.
Aspley RLFC had good reason to feel proud of its achievements in its 40th year but the Treasurer’s report for the year was a cause for concern. Ray Tierney indicated that “the Club’s overall balance sheet position has deteriorated resulting in a loss in members’ equity for the year of $110,108.” Casual observers blamed the loss on the fielding of Colts, A Grade and Queensland Cup competitions and while these represented a combined outlay of $219.568, the Club had generated income of $207,682 through sponsors. The losses were more accurately explained by rising employment costs, increases in nomination fees, insurance and fines, a depreciation figure that grew from $13,796 in 2006 to $61,318 in 2007 and increased costs associated with the Anniversary Wenty trip (up to $67,992). Again, the Leagues Club contributed generously to the cost of operating in 2007 with cash grants of $257,952, payments of $159,558 in wages and grounds maintenance and an additional grant of $40,254 to help the Football Club through a challenging year.
With the passing of the Aspley Broncos from the Queensland Cup, Aspley entered into a new partnership with the Broncos and, ironically perhaps, with Norths Devils, known as the Northern Broncos Development Program, a joint initiative of the three organizations. The aim of the program is to assist with the development of Junior Rugby League and coaching development in the Northern region of Brisbane and is funded by the Aspley Devils, Refund Home Loans, Golden Circle, Steve Jones and Norths Leagues and Services Club. The initiative encourages participation at all levels from school based activities through to Junior A and Development teams. At the elite end the program offers a pathway through to NRL level. The program is co-ordinated by Michael Whalley from Norths Devils and has 10 affiliated clubs: Aspley Devils, Banyo Devils, Brothers Juniors, Brighton Roosters, Fortitude Valley Juniors, Norths Devils Juniors, Norths St. Josephs, Pine Central Holy Spirit, Pine Rivers and Samford Stags.
Norths Devils, as the established Senior club in the area, and ultimately perhaps the Brisbane Broncos are seen as the likely destination for elite graduates from the program. Currently funds are provided to associated clubs for equipment, coaches, sports medicine and referee development. Further funds are provided to Junior A teams from Under 15 to Under17, to Wavell High to assist with its Excellence in Rugby League program, and to Norths Devils and Brisbane Broncos scholarship programs. The venture provides development clinics, emerging squad training, a Mini and Mod Sponsors Day and Referee development and Accreditation courses. Aspley RLFC has a significant financial investment in the program and benefits to the Club will be monitored closely to assess whether these benefits justify the investment.
2008 saw a number of changes in the key personnel within the Club with Kath Burley taking over as treasurer from Ray Tierney and Cath Pearce subsequently succeeding Kath Burley during the year. Simon Scanlan moved to a position with the Brisbane Broncos and club stalwart Doug Hale replaces him as Football Operations Manager for the year. Shane Kiss took over as Coaching and Development Officer while Leneke Pearce became Admin Officer. At the AGM Treasurer Cath Pearce was able to report that the Club’s financial position had improved significantly during the year with its overdraft reduced substantially.
On the field the Club won premierships in the Under 13 Division 3 and the Under 14 Premiers competitions. In his Presidents’ report for 2008 Jim Spletter announced that the committee had reluctantly decided not to enter teams in the FOG’s competitions in 2009. In Jim’s words “the last three years has been a fantastic journey for the Aspley RLFC. It has taken us to the pinnacle of Rugby League in Queensland. In 2009 we go back to what we do best, producing quality junior footballers and good sportsmanship.”
Aspley fielded 38 Junior and Senior teams and catered for approximately 700 players from under 7s through to FOGS A Grade in 2008. The Leagues Club increased its assistance by $5,000 per month to almost $318,000 annually for the running expenses of the Club in addition to the contribution that it had traditionally made to cover some wages and maintenance expenses. Plans were drawn up for a Football Club complex on the western side of the field and arrangements with the local schools seem to have solved, for the moment, the problem of space. Challenges have been met and overcome but the world of 2008 is vastly different from the world of 1968. The founders of the Club believed strongly that any youngster wanting to play Rugby League should be able to do so without cost. In 2007 Junior players paid a sign-on fee of $160 and in 2008 that fee rose to $210. While these amounts were in line with those charged by other clubs, while these fees are easily explained by costs of jerseys, club shirts, insurance and playing fees, many long term club members worry that some young people in the area are not playing the game because they can’t afford to. In the early days, however, each team raised its own funds to pay its own way. If the costs to outfit and run a team are in fact about $3,500, one wonders whether teams could raise that money today.
With highly qualified professional staff backed by an army of volunteers and with generous funding guaranteed well into the future Aspley Rugby League Football Club is well placed to continue its incredible story into its fifth decade. The first 40 years has been long and sometimes difficult but always rewarding. The Club’s journey has produced and been made possible by its heroes and the most easily identified of these heroes are the Life Members whose names appear on the Honour Board at the entrance to the Clubhouse. In its 40 years 18 men and 2 women had bestowed upon them the highest honour the Club can offer:
Jack Gleadhill (1973): Jack was one of the original group who came across from Norths to form Norths Aspley. He acted as a representative of Norths while serving Aspley’s committee and began the Bingo operations which were to prove crucial to the Club’s financial viability.
Harry Kirby (1975): The late Harry Kirby also came from Norths and, being a builder is credited with saving the Club much needed funds through his contacts and expertise. He was an important fund raiser in the early years and server as President briefly in 1971 and again in 1974. The field is named in his honour.
Pat Buckley (1976): Pat was elected to the first Management Committee in 1968. He served as Property Office from 1970-1975 and headed the highly successful Bingo operation from 1974 to 1981. Pat played an active part in rewriting the Clubs constitution in 1978 and 1981 and in preparation for the Leagues Club in 1979. He served as Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer of the Board of Directors.
Alan Scamp (1977): The late Alan Scamp was an active Committee person in the early years of the Club and served as Secretary in 1972 and 1973 and President on 1977 and 1981. Alan became a Director of the Leagues Club and served as Secretary of the Board of Directors.
Darby Munro (1977): Darby Munro served as Secretary in 1971 and Treasurer in 1973-74 and again in 1976-77-78. Darby juggled his duties with shift work but still found time to assist with fundraising.
Rex Dannenberg (1978): Rex is generally recognized as the driving force in getting the Club up and running. He was the foundation President in 1968-69 and remained active in the Football Club for many years. Rex was also one of the driving forces behind the establishment of the Old Boys and Supporters Club.
Neil Phelan (1979): Neil Phelan served on the Management Committee during the 1970’s and was involved in fund raising for the Club. He coached over a number of years and served as House Secretary in 1974.
Ray Kelso (1980): Ray had legend status within the Club as an organizer of raffles and fund raising. He coached for a time and was Club president in 78-79. He played a key role in establishing the Leagues Club and became Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1980
Robert Harriss (1982): Bob Harriss served on the Management Committee during the 70’s and 80’s and was a team manager. In 1982 he had the responsibility of operating Bingo within the Club.
Keith Rolls (1983): Keith coached and served on early committees and in 1975 took over the Presidency of the Football Club. He was to go on to be the longest serving President – 1975-76, 1980, 1982-83-84-85-86-87, 89-90-91-92, a record 13 terms as well as serving on the Board of Directors.
Bob Smith (1985): Bob had been a club referee and active member of the Management Committee before becoming Secretary in 1978 and continuing in that position until 1985. He also managed teams and served as Secretary again in 1993 after terms as Treasurer in 1987-88. Bob also served as Secretary and Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Bob Durston (1987): The Late Bob Durston served on the Club’s Management Committee as well as coaching and managing teams. He made a major contribution to the Club in his role of club referee, a position he carried out over many years.
Warren Tolhurst (1988): The late Warren Tolhurst served on the Management Committee as was Registrar in 1983 and Property Officer in 1985. Warren also coached and was President in 1986-987 and for a part of 1997. He was Club Secretary in 1990-91-92 and in 1994-95-96.
Rob Eltherington (1991): Rob had an involvement in the Club of 20 years as a player, coach and committee person from 1971 to 1990. He played from 1971 to 1982, coached for 11 seasons and was a member of the Management Committee in 1976 and the Old Boys Committee 1989-90.
Tim McNamara (1997): Tim was one of the Club’s earliest players and later coached and managed teams. He was President of the Football Club from 1993 to 1996 and served on the Board of Directors. He is currently the CEO of the Leagues Club.
Rozanne Tolhurst (1998): Rozanne became the Club’s first woman to be awarded life membership and with her late husband Warren is half of the first husband-wife team to be so honoured. After many years on the committee in the 80’s, Rozanne served as Treasurer for almost 9 years and made a significant contribution as Bingo promoter.
Ray Tierney (2004): Ray Tierney had been Club Treasurer continuously since 1998 when he was made a Life Member in 2004. He went on to serve as Treasurer until the end of the 2007 season, a record 10 consecutive terms.
Jim Spletter (2006): Jim is the Club’s current President, a position he has held since 2001. He joined the Football Club Committee in 1995 and has been a Leagues Club Director since 1996. Jim led the Club in its historic partnership with the Brisbane Broncos in 2003.
Novar Newton (2007): Novar’s contribution to the Club was belatedly acknowledged given that he had been one of the “founding fathers” in 1967. He served as Treasurer for the first 5 years of the Club’s operation and ensured a firm financial footing.
Mary Tierney (2008): Mary has given great service to the Club as a volunteer over many years. She is the current Club Secretary and has served in that role since 2003. With husband Ray, she is part of the second husband and wife team to be honoured as Life members.
At the Annual General Meeting of 2006 it was proposed that the membership numbers of Life Members not be reissued, and in the event of their passing, the membership number should stay in the immediate family.
For 40 years Aspley RLFC has produced footballers from Under 7’s through to Masters capable of performing heroic deeds on given days. In their own ways, every player who pulled on an Aspley jersey and gave the best that he or she could give is a hero. Some players however were to go on to play at the highest level. Many Aspley Juniors went on to play in A grade teams in the BRL and QRL but the following players went even further and qualify as Aspley heroes:-
Trevor Bailey: Trevor, a hooker, was an Aspley Junior and played A Grade football for Brothers, leading them to a premiership in 1987. He also played with St. George where he was also captain.
Jayson Bukuya: Jayson played at Aspley from 2000-2006. A fine utility player, he joined the Sharks in 2007 and made his first grade debut in 2008. He represented Fiji in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup.
Dale Copley: Dale is a very talented outside back, currently studying to be a pharmacist. Dale made his NRL debut for the Broncos in 2009 as a 17 year old.
Robert Grogan: Robert was a contemporary of Trevor Bailey. A five-eighth, he also played first grade for Brothers and played NRL for the Gold Coast.
Duncan Hall (Junior): After playing Rugby League for Aspley as a youngster Duncan Jnr son of League great Duncan Hall went on to play 75 games for the Queensland Reds and capped a great career by playing with the Wallabies.
Ashley Harrison: Ashley was a star schoolboy and representative footballer before joining the Broncos in 2000. He went on to play for the Rabbitohs from 2003-2005, and the Roosters 2006-07, before joining the Titans in 2008. He has played State of Origin for Queensland and is an excellent utility player.
Dunamis Lui: Dunamis and Josh McGuire made a formidable forward pairing in their junior days at Aspley, he has since progressed to be the Broncos Toyota Cup player of the year in 2009 and then to make his NRL debut against the Dragons in 2010.
Craig McAlpine: Craig attended Aspley High and played in the Australian Secondary Schoolboys team. A solid halfback he played first grade for Penrith before returning to Brothers in Brisbane.
Josh McGuire: Josh played his first game of Rugby League as a 13 year-old. From the outset, he displayed a great ability for the game and relished the tough stuff. He made his debut for the Brisbane Broncos in 2009 after a very successful season in the Broncos Toyota Cup squad.
Drew Mitchell: Drew is a current Wallaby and Western Force player in Rugby. He played Rugby League at Aspley and Rugby Union at St. Pats. A utility back he made his debut with the Queensland Reds in 2004.
David Shillington: David played junior football for Aspley and Brothers and attended Padua. A rugged prop he joined played with the Sydney Roosters and is now with the Canberra Raiders.
David Stagg: Born in Townsville, David played his junior football with Aspley and made his debut for the Brisbane Broncos against the Dogs in July 2003. His incredible work rate and his versatility have made him a key player in the Broncos outfit.
Brad Thorn: Brad played his junior football for Aspley and Wests Arana before joining the Broncos in 1994. He is undoubtedly the club’s “most decorated” player having played State Of Origin for Queensland and represented Australia at Rugby League and New Zealand in Rugby.
Shane Tronc: Shane also played junior football for Aspley and Wests Arana. He attended Wavell High School and was an Australian Schoolboy rep player. He played first grade for Redcliffe before moving to the NQ Cowboys and played against Wests in the 2005 grand final.
As well as these players that have played NRL, there are also a number of players that have played or are currently playing in the Toyota Cup National Youth Competition. These include:
Troyden Watene, Kurt Baptiste, Kieren English, Chris Minehan
To these names we could add those of players who may not have played at the same level but who played 300 games for Aspley:-
Ross Drew, Jeff Hollywood, Jason Lester and David Smith.
And finally to the many unsung heroes of our Club, the thousands of volunteers who have made it function over its 40 years. People like Rob Hutton with 15 years of continuous coaching service up to 2007, and other coaches, managers, strappers, linespeople, committee members, and parents. You were the people who made it happen as did the bingo players who literally built the Club. A quote from Mary Tierney’s 2004 Secretary’s Report encapsulates our debt to the volunteers:
“The efforts of many, many volunteers are necessary to allow these youngsters to display their skills and enjoy their football. We do not always say thanks when a manager presents a neatly written game sheet, when a coach turns up prepared and eager to begin his training session, when a parent dons the duty official bib, when the linesman signs the card, when the runner tends an injury, when a parent arrives with neatly folded laundered jerseys, when a trainer takes over a problem, when a referee returns the game ball, when the ball boy returns a ball from the creek or when a spectator lends a hand. However to the hundreds of volunteers out there who have been an indispensible ingredient in our game, I send my whole-hearted thanks for a job well done.”
And as it heads for 50 so does Aspley Rugby League Football Club Inc.