Phil Collings’ lengthy involvement in local football will come to an end in December when he and his family move to Mosgiel, but the stalwart insists he will take fond memories with him.
Collings began playing football as a 4-year-old in Christchurch, but wasn’t sure how or why he became infatuated by the “beautiful game”.
“Dad played First XV for SKC. I think I’ve played one game of rugby in my whole life,” he said.
“I played my first game at 4 and I just carried on playing. I have fond memories of watching Match of the Day on Sundays with Brian Moore, watching Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and teams like that. I can’t explain it, I just love the game.”
Collings began playing in Oamaru for Eveline Football Club, followed by Waitaki Boys’ First XI and then represented Otago University before returning to Oamaru and playing for Auto World United and Oamaru Football Club in the 90s.
The 50-year-old recalled some of his fondest memories from his playing days, before an injury to his anterior cruciate ligament ended his career as a forward at the age of 30.
“We (Oamaru FC) played in the Winfield Series, which was an inter-provincial competition and I guess the highlight would be when we played Canterbury here at the showgrounds. Canterbury had a sprinkling of All Whites and we drew nil-all,” he said.
“They hit the bar like 33 times but we drew nil-all. There were some great players in that team; Keith Roach, Mark Banks, Michael Banks and others.
“The other fond memory is the Fletcher Cup team, which would have been in 1994, the year I did my knee,” he said.
“We played in Dunedin. That was a very good team. We won it and they took the title from us for playing a player that had been suspended, but that was a great side – Mark Banks, Michael Banks, Steve Wicks and Wayne Bond who I paired upfront with.
“I always remember the opening game of that season. We beat Roslyn 5-3 and I got a hat-trick, then I did my knee against Mosgiel here at the showgrounds.
“My ACL snapped. I went up for a challenge with the goalkeeper and landed awkwardly. It was nobody’s fault.”
Collings returned the following season but failed to recapture his form and decided to give goal keeping another go after playing between the sticks for Waitaki Boys’ High School under coach Doug Bell.
“I tried playing the next year but rolled my knee over the week before the season started, so that’s when I took a backwards step,” he said.
Coaching then became the focus and Collings reflected on the progression of local football at club level.
“I think where we’ve taken the Meadowbank Club and how we’ve worked really hard as a club to put a coaching infrastructure in place that has developed so many teams (is an achievement),” he said.
Winning the South Canterbury Division two title before making the step up to the first division is also a highlight of Collings’ time coaching in football.
“I think winning Division Two, in that first season we went to Timaru and we won division two straight up and we were unbeaten in the first season. I was coach, and then we took the leap and our first year in the first division we got runners-up and we’ve been in the top three every year until this year,” he said.
Developing players is the former Meadowbank United chairman’s passion and he hopes to continue his involvement in football in Mosgiel, but may take a step back for some much deserved downtime.
“The satisfaction is seeing guys that have come through the ranks and now we’ve got guys in federation teams, we’ve had guys at NTC (national talent centre) we’ve got guys playing rep football all over the place and I’ve been part of that and I’m quite proud of that. There’s nothing better than seeing a smile on a kids face when he’s made a team or achieved something and you’ve been a part of that.”
By JAMES FORD
PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Phil Collings will be moving to Mosgiel in December after being involved in local football since the 1970s.