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Best off Ground: The loyal Eaglehawk clubman dubbed 'The Moth'

Barely a day goes by that Gerard Ilsley isn't at the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club - AFL
Barely a day goes by that Gerard Ilsley isn't at the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club

Gerard Ilsely has been a long-time servant of the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club in regional Victoria, doing whatever is needed to keep the club ticking over during the past 50 years. Ilsely has been recognised for his contribution to the game as a runner-up of the 2019 Swisse Best Off Ground Award.

BARELY a day goes by that Gerard Ilsley isn't at the Eaglehawk Football Netball Club (EFNC) helping out in some capacity.

Whether it's filling up the ice baths, opening the bar, pumping up the footys or any of the other important roles that need doing on game days, the man dubbed "The Moth" is a loyal clubman in every sense of the word.

It's been this way for the past 53 years since he was selling records outside Canterbury Park as a seven-year-old.

"I can't see myself ever giving it away," Ilsley, now 60, said.

"It gives me an interest and I just love the joint.

"I go down there every night of the week."

Ilsley has been recognised for his tremendous contribution as a runner-up in the 2019 Swisse Best Off Ground Award.

Like a moth to a flame, if the light is on at the club, Gerard is there.

His long association with EFNC runs in the family – dad George played more than 350 games and has the best and fairest medal for the men's senior team named in his honour.

Gerard's playing days ended at age 16 when he broke his hips, but he put all his energies into helping out any way he could off the field.

He became the reserves team manager at age 18 and progressed through a number of different roles.

The most significant is club secretary, a position he's held on and off for the past 15 years.

"It's been a family thing," Ilsley said.

"My father was a legend of the club, he was in the team of the century and the best and fairest senior medal is named after him. 

"It's more or less been a family affair."

The EFCN has a long and storied history dating back to the establishment of the Bendigo Football League in 1880.

But Ilsley remembers the tough times when the club struggled financially and was continually on the end of 30-goal defeats.

However, they've come through the other side thanks to a passionate community and dedicated volunteers and claimed the premiership in 2018.

The club made another significant step this year when it entered a women's side for the first time.

Ilsely has been credited for playing a crucial role in helping the women integrate themselves into the club, opening the club rooms on Sundays after their games to make them feel welcome.

"They've been sensational - it's given me a bit of a boost, a rejuvenation," he said.

"I think they won two games for the year and half of them hadn't played before.

"None of that matters, they're always smiling and love the game.

"It's just given everyone a new look and the women have been great additions to the footy club."

2019 Swisse Best off Ground Finalists

The Swisse Best Off Ground Award celebrates local footy's unsung heroes who play a starring role behind the scenes, and Gerard was chosen as the runner-up from 993 nominations. Here are the 10 finalists:

Brooke Fox (winner), Eastern Devils Football Club

Gerard Ilsley (runner-up), Eaglehawk Football Netball Club

Stewart Willey (runner-up), Youth Development Unit (YDU) Link: https://www.afl.com.au/news/2019-09-08/best-off-ground-meet-the-superman-from-tennant-creek

Paul Beneke, Broadview Football Club Inc.

Marion Leslie, Robinvale-Euston Football Netball Club

Charlie, Montmorency FC

Darren Jackson, Whitsunday Australian Football Club

Michael O'Rourke, Rye Football and Netball Club

Kath Mulquiny, Charlton Football Club

Dan Croucher, Blue Mountains Kangaroos