Premiership reunion recalls former Melbourne Demon Troy Broadbridge’s last game of football
Written by Paul Amy - Bayside Leader.
View the article on the Herald Sun here.
Troy Broadbridge had played a few games for Sandringham early in the 2004 season, enough to qualify for the VFL finals.
He was eligible and his desire was unquestionable; after Melbourne’s AFL elimination final loss to Essendon, he told Sandy he wanted to be part of their premiership push.
But Melbourne coach Neale Daniher and Sandringham coach Mark Williams weren’t so keen for him to play.
Broadbridge had played 14 AFL games for the Demons that season, finishing it stylishly and confidently, and Daniher and Williams believed he had taken his game beyond the VFL. (Image: Leader Community News)
They wanted to select players with more to prove.
Broadbridge didn’t argue. But he trained with the Zebras as they won their way through to the grand final against Port Melbourne at Princes Park.
And then he got a lucky break.
On the morning of the decider, Nick Smith phoned Williams, said he was ill and couldn’t play.
Broadbridge was listed as an emergency. Williams called him into the team.
The Zebras won a gripping grand final by four points — 9.13 (67) to 9.9 (63) — and Broadbridge played a fine game off half back.
“I just remember how much energy and excitement he brought to the side,’’ Williams recalled this afternoon.
“He was just so happy to be playing. It happened so quickly I didn’t even get around to telling Neale about it. The first he knew Troy was playing was when the teams ran on the ground.’’
It turned out to be Broadbridge’s last game of football. Three months later he drowned in Thailand while on his honeymoon, a victim of the Asian tsunami.
He was 24. Hearts were brick-heavy at Sandy; as a young Melbourne player selected in a rookie draft, Broadbridge spent a lot of time at the Beach Rd Oval.
Gaining his footing in senior football, he had nine matches in the reserves. But he played in the Zebras’ 2000 senior premiership under Graeme Yeats and counted 2004 as a second flag in his 34 senior games.
“He was shocked when I called him up on the morning of the grand final … he said to me, ‘I haven’t had the best preparation!’’ Williams recalled with a laugh.
“But we loved him playing for us, because we knew he loved all the blokes and he loved playing at Sandringham. He was very team-focused and a fantastic fella to have around the place.’’
Colin Sylvia, who died in a car accident last October at the age of 32, also played in the 2004 premiership and was among the best players against Port.
Williams said Sylvia was a dynamic and strong player and, like Broadbridge, popular at Sandy.
“Super talent, Colin,’’ he said.
“He had all the attributes of being a match winner… even though he was a kid, we were really excited to have him."
“He brought real character to the team in regards to the way he played and the way he was with his teammates. Nice fella. Would do anything for anyone."
“He’d talk to the kids sitting on the fence, he’d talk to the old blokes behind the goals."
“He really embedded himself into the club and that was fantastic for a first-year Melbourne player.’’
The 2004 premiership was the first of three on the bounce for Williams and his team.
Fifteen years on, Williams can easily recall the closing stages of the match, in particular Chris Lamb’s mark on the goal line to deny Port Melbourne the lead.
Sandy failed to kick a goal in the final quarter but they toughed it out over a North Melbourne-aligned team fired by midfield maestro Jeremy Clayton.
Zebra Guy Rigoni had 25 possessions and won the Norm Goss Medal as best-afield.
Nick Saunter kicked four goals, enjoying his third premiership with Sandy.
Williams was, and remains, close to Port’s 2004 coach Gerard FitzGerald, who set aside the disappointment of defeat to embrace Williams on the ground after the final siren.
FitzGerald had also suffered grand final losses with the 1999 and 2000 North Ballarat teams.
He must have wondered if his time would come. It did. Just as Williams coached the Zebras to the 2004-05-06 treble, “Fitz’’ steered the Roosters to a hat-trick through 2008-09-10.
The Sandringham and Melbourne alignment was strong.
Williams said Sandy coveted premierships, the Demons wanted their players to develop in a successful environment, the clubs respected each other and they made it work.
He said Daniher gave him the final say at selection and “complete autonomy’’ on match days.
Premiership teams have unbreakable bonds, and Williams said Broadbridge and Sylvia would “always have a special connection with the club and their teammates’’.
“I think about them often. I do. Two young men taken at such young ages… such a tragic thing for everyone who knew them,’’ he said.
Trevor Barker coached the 1994 premiership team, which famously came from behind to defeat Box Hill by nine points at Victoria Park.
*The Sandringham '94 & '04 Reunions and Past Players Day starts at 11.30am Sunday, July 21. The Zebras play Footscray at 12.10pm and the Southern Saints VFLW team welcomes the Western Bulldogs at 3.10pm.*
SANDRINGHAM PREMIERSHIP TEAMS
B: Daniel Bell, Ryan Ferguson, Nathan Carroll
HB: Troy Broadbridge, Chris Lamb, Peter Walsh
C: David Gallagher, Guy Rigoni, Chad Liddell (captain)
HF: Luke Williams, Rod Crowe, Toby Conroy
F: Steve Armstrong, Nick Sautner, Col Sylvia
FOLL: Mark Jamar, Sean O’Keeffe, Adam Fisher
INTER: Aaron Bishop, Matt Warnock, Matt Gadsden, Andy Biddlecombe
Coach: Mark Williams
B: David MacGeorge, Nick Murray, Pat Lambert
HB: Anthony Allen (captain), Paul McMaster, Peter Czerkaski
C: Darren Mitchelson, Shane Foley, Justin Clarkson