Brendan Sheehan was an accomplished cricketer for Sunshine YCW Cricket Club, and later went on to play sub-district cricket for Sunshine and district cricket at Essendon Cricket Club.
His younger brother Peter Sheehan however, had taken a liking to hockey and joined Footscray Hockey Club after club member Neville Hopkins ran a school clinic at Christ the King Primary School in Braybrook.
Brendan came along to watch a game at Johnson Reserve and met life member Alby Speed, who threw a stick in his hand and encouraged him to pursue the sport.
Brendan was soon hooked and started playing hockey in a Men’s lower grade team at the age of 19 in 1972, a decision that would ignite one of the most dedicated passions in his life.
Brendan enjoyed the atmosphere and club so much, he ditched cricket to focus on hockey, in what would become a 5 decade association with the club until his sad passing in 2020, too soon before his time. He played a total of 472 senior games.
Julie Anne Brown, later to be Sheehan, met Brendan via a cousin through a Footscray Running Club Fundraiser. They started dating and it wasn’t long before Julie Anne had a stick in her hand.
They married in 1980 and together, both their passions grew towards the red, white and blue of the mighty Bulldogs.
They have one daughter, Ally Sheehan, who is also an avid hockey player.
Shortly after commencing at FHC, Brendan decided to commence a Physical Education degree and started contributing to the Men’s section of the club with a fitness program under coach Alby Speed.
In 1977, at the age of 24, Brendan came onto the board as the Vice President and in 1978, the Under Age Secretary, now called Junior Director. He was in this role on and off over a period of 40 years, totalling 15 years (1978-79, 81, 86-89, 2003-10)in that position. In between junior stints, he held the Men’s Director Position from 1982 – 1985, including the club’s historic year where all 5 Men’s teams won premierships in 1985. Other years at the helm of the Men’s include 1990-93, 99-00. Brendan was awarded Life Membership to Footscray Hockey Club in 1990.
Brendan held the President title in 1995 as the Planning & Performance Director and then in 2012-13. In 2012, after years doing the hard yards as a section director, Brendan cemented the planning and performance role until 2020.
Brendan had a vision, the passion, and an overwhelming desire to not only move the club forward but to make it the best possible in Melbourne.
At whatever stage of development the club was at, he ran workshops, gave presentations and printed thousands of newsletters to get the board, players and junior parents on board with his vision.
Brendan was dogged in his determination to see his plan through. It was hard work, he worked at such a pace, others who knew him well were in awe of his tenacity and output. His work and efforts cannot be questioned and was granted life membership of the club in 1990. Not all his ideas were liked, but he believed they was in the best interest of the club. The thought of just fading while rival stronger clubs grew was not an option.
Dedication to coaching juniors, was his passion for over 40 years, regardless of what other role he was undertaking within the club. Coaching juniors brought a lot of satisfaction to him, and his enthusiasm was felt by others, as he welcomed the new juniors and families into our club. Not only was he a wonderful coach for the kids, but he was a wonderful ambassador for our club, selling it at every opportunity and encouraging family involvement. His proudest moments were watching the juniors he recruited, coach and developed through the years, becoming future Premier League players, valued long-term club members, or putting back into the club themselves in a volunteer capacity.
There wouldn’t be many current players under 50 years old that haven’t come through our junior program, coached or mentored by Brendan. His mission to develop a strong junior section was rewarded in 2008 under his direction when the Footscray Hockey Club was named by Hockey Victoria as best junior hockey club in Victoria. A great reward following the implementation and delivery of 10,000 club postcards to local primary school children, clinics in schools and countless come and try clinics at the club.
Brendan’s claim to fame on the playing and coaching front was the 1977 Men’s XI premiership, where he was a player coach. Brendan was a hardnosed coach and had a style that was results driven. This was evident when he showed no favouritism, with folklore recalling that during the ‘77 grand final, he left good friend and up and coming junior, Darryl Jahnke (life member) on the bench for the whole game. His playing career had many highlights, however one of his memories were during the summer season where he would introduce many junior players to their first taste of senior hockey.
Brendan sourced the first and original bulldog logo which is still used today from the Johnson Reserve days. He introducted the white shirts with the horizontal stripes, after decades of the vertical stripes. In the 80’s Brendan organised a large metal sign with the bulldog logo, and on the spot, was asked by sign writers in Footscray what the motto of the club was. Brendan instantly had the words ‘Pride and Loyalty’ come to the forefront of his mind, thus the FHC motto was born.
In the mid to late 2000’s success and sheer numbers of the junior section, finally started hitting the senior teams. Both the Men’s and Women’s sections reaped the rewards of Brendan’s hard work, with a plethora of players of all experience and talents filling the top teams to the lower grades. The seniors started to move up and up the grades, to the strong position they are today. In 2008 Brendan’s desire for the club to be greater saw him involved in player and coaching recruitment to assist our State League 2 teams and protect the numerous Victorian players coming through the junior system.
Newspaper Article Photograph
to evoke emotion regarding
rental hikes for sporting clubs
Together with the Men’s Director Tom Griffin & Women’s Director Nicole Virtuoso, he aimed high and far, and no name was off the table. Bringing in overseas players for the season, where both the Men & Women were promoted to State League 1 in 2009 (now Premier League). He was then involved in coach and player recruiting for the next several years, while the teams cemented their spots in the top division. The success culminated in 2019, where our clubs Men’s and Women’s Premier League teams played off in the grand final. It was the result of a shrewd planning and development, utilising Brennan’s knowledge and smarts to sustain a player squad for the future generations and invest in juniors to provide them with the pathway to follow in a high class environment.
Brendan was always a nervous watcher of sport. He was known to leave the grounds mid match if the game is tight. Notably, during the Men’s 2011 State League 2 grand final at the State Hockey Centre, when the pressure became too great, Brendan left the venue and walked down to the Royal Children’s Hospital Chapel, before returning to the ground. As he was getting closer and closer, he could tell it had gone to penalty strokes by the cheers. With every cheer, he could tell when FHC had scored by the greater roar of the crowd. The final score ended in 16 – 15 in sudden death strokes, and as he made his way back to the crowd, he needed good friend to confirm the win.
1993 Opening of McIvor Reserve, Life Member Photo
2001, Life Members, Official Opening F1 Pitch, with Sports Minister Simon Madden
Brendan’s fastidious eye for memorabilia and statistics, have culminated in the greatest collection of club history, data, charts, grand final photos, honour boards, flag display and memorabilia cabinets of any hockey club in Australia. There could never be enough display cabinets or wall space in Brendan’s eye, and nearly every inch of the clubrooms are covered with these efforts.
In his professional life, working as a facility planner for Sport and Recreation Victoria, his knowledge around successful grant submissions came in handy for our club. He was across all the State and Local Government grant opportunities for sporting organisation. His energy and expertise were key drivers in many successful funding applications. This included the master plan facilities, installation of F2 and then F1, lights, pavilion redevelopment, and many minor works and equipment projects.
Brendan and Julie Anne’s famous VW combi was the original junior taxi in the early days and later for ferrying friends home after late night revelry at the club. Brendan was always a designated driver and a non-drinking man’s man.
His drink of choice, a nice cool lemonade or a Coke in a glass bottle. During the morning, a hot chocolate was his hot beverage of choice.
Brendan was an entertaining companion where his intellect, dry sense of humour and fun loving nature came to the fore. His hockey friendships often extended to his favourite spicy restaurant or his sweet tooth was satisfied with an ice cream, chocolate or Mississippi mud cake at a local café. An avid Sydney Swans fan, he would always talk about his footy team to the junior kids and be delighted when a new recruit barracked for the red and white also.
Always fastidious, nothing escaped him, whether he was ensuring that the grounds of pavilion plans were correct, club charts were up to date, or reports were checked and rechecked. Those around him could all recall occasions when his level of detail tested us. Revisions extending into the 20’s were not uncommon as his level of perfection was achieved. Brendan wrote in the teeniest tiny writing in a felt tip pen on sticky notes, random pieces of paper, or a receipt. His notes would include tasks or sketches often in blue, green or his favourite, red colour.
Brendan has established many lifelong friends during his years at the club. Many through work, undertaken together, as Brendan recruited them to be involved in their years in juniors. Thomas/Hopkins, Whight/Scott, Lewis and White families and life members Darryl Jahnke, Harry Zachariou and Nicole Virtuoso.
Julie Anne has been with Brendan side by side through most of his junior coaching and club involvement.
She has been unwavering in commitment to Brendan through the good and tough times.
She has enabled us to receive the full benefit of Brendan’s energy.
Brendan’s proudest moments were through his daughter Ally Sheehan and he was delighted in her continuing the sport in her adult life.
Brendan at Julie Anne’s game when she broke the
Women’s All Time Highest Games Record 529 games
with daughter Ally Sheehan
Brendan’s tireless work for Hockey Victoria committees and promoting the hockey cause at Victorian level, was also recognised by a Hockey Victoria life membership in 2017. The Footscray Hockey Club board honoured his contributions with the naming of the eastern pitch (formally known as F2), the Brendan Sheehan Field.
Brendan has left an immeasurable legacy to our club no one person will ever replicate his commitment and passion.
He set the bar very high for all of us to try and continue his hard work.