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HISTORY

Kingsley Collins, Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Pirates have been around for about as long as there’s been nautical traffic – while there’s looting and pillaging to be done and treasure to be had…..

While the Preston Baseball Club can only figuratively be accused of “looting and pillaging”, it has certainly enjoyed the “treasure” of longevity – for a hundred years come 2010.

The club has travelled the gamut of baseball journeys. It has survived its relocations, turmoil and hard times. It has produced a galaxy of baseball stars and it boasts an enviable connection with some of the acolytes of Australian baseball.

It has had its golden eras and – in recent times – it has stared down the prospect of oblivion when so much appeared to be going against it. But the Pirates – now – are on the up and up, me hearties.

Junior Club Coach

 

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Currently in Division Three, they have dramatically turned around their playing numbers and performances to the extent that they are realistically looking at promotion – on merit – to Division Two for 2009/10. Finishing fourth after the 2008/09 home and away season, they will face off against Williamstown in next Sunday’s First Semi-Final.

The game is of great import to both clubs, with the Wolves having celebrated their own centenary just a year ago and with both clubs committed to continuing their resurrection after some lean times.

Established in 1910, the club is believed to have been started by some of the Preston Cricket Club players of that bygone era. Long identified by its red and white strip, the club introduced a grey element during the seventies to move from the basic white uniform with red trim and socks.

Like many inner suburban clubs, Preston has survived a number of relocations. It spent time at Crisp Park, Preston City Oval (Cramer Street) and Haxby Park (south of the Olympic Hotel) before moving to Robinson Reserve (West Preston) in 1962. The club camped at Robinson Reserve until four years ago, when it relocated to the magnificent, fully-lit facility at Latrobe University (below).

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“These were great, fun people who loved the community and the sport,” said Djorgonoski. “The after games were wonderful occasions where everyone would return for a drink and a laugh. I can remember Norm hanging off the rafters trying to hold himself up giving a great speech to both teams and welcoming everyone back”.
 

In those halcyon decades at Robinson Reserve, Mike and Don Deeble built the bar. Perhaps Mike built it mostly, but Don looked after quality control and testing.
 

This was the era of the infamous “wall of abuse”. Although it was tempting for some to be “sucked in” by the torrent of comment, jibes and one-liners coming from the hill, it was all in good fun. For the most part.
 

“We used to reel some of them in,” said Djorgonski. “But then it was all back to the rooms, have a laugh and a few beers and settle any differences.”
 

While it is easy to reflect upon the good times, the Preston Pirates are very much looking forward and are already seeing their five-year plan beginning to bear fruit.
 

In appointing former player Stuart Medland to the club coaching role, they have been on a real winner. Medland has been able to build on the “foundation” work provided by Gerard Cooper, Michael Deeble and Geoff Rietschel in recent years.
 

Djorgonoski is clear on what Medland was able to bring to the club.
 

“What we have seen is a tremendous team spirit develop within all the players, brought on by some very straight forward assessments and very good coaching of players who want to work towards the promotion of the club to second division and beyond,” he said.
 

“Stuart as head coach and David Maloney as his assistant have led from the front with real passion. Stuart has been involved in all parts of the club from training to game day. But he is also a man’s man – he loves a drink with the guys and is in boots and all. A bit like Jon Deeble. He seems to relate to his players well and he can rip into them – if need be – without them getting pissed off.”
 

Djorgonoski believes that genuine team spirit has been instilled in the players by a coach who understands that hard work, a little fun and a serious commitment to each other will reap the rewards.
 

The club lost a number of promising youngsters prior to this season but others have stepped up – including the President’s son Nick, who is having a fantastic season. But there are others with bright futures in the game.
 

“Heath Pendlebury and his brother Blake,” Djorgonoski said. “And Alex Canny. But there are plenty more coming through the junior ranks.”
 

Former premiership player, Club Coach Stuart Medland knew quite well that he was taking on a significant challenge, even after the great spadework put in by Mike Deeble and Geoff Rietschel in recent years. Medland was committed to not recruiting and trying to bring players along with him. He saw the potential within the club and was confident that his coaching abilities could help take the club to higher levels.
 

What stung him, early on, was the revelation that he would not have some of the emerging players at his disposal.
 

“After losing four good players from last year’s line-up, on paper we were not going to win a game,” Medland said. “But with the return of a couple of former Pirates our team was transformed to a bunch of guys prepared to play hard and take in the new message. We put into place a game plan that breaks down everyone’s role and defines what they need to do to help the team win.”
 

“Rather than just playing the game, everything we do is for a purpose.”
 

“Preston’s junior program is in a strong position because of a lot of work over the past few years,” Medland said
 

An experienced man of the game, Medland has a decent handle on the relative standards in Baseball Victoria divisions and is looking forward with confidence.
 

“l believe the standard in Division Three is about equivalent to Division Two maybe ten years ago,” Medland said. “We were lucky enough to have six clubs going hard at each other each week, which is the perfect preparation for trying to get back to Division Two.”
 

“From the start of the season our club goal has always been to make it back to Division Two. As a team we are more focused on learning the game of baseball, turning bad habits into good habits and working harder than we did last week. I think we’ve fine-tuned certain areas of our game and I’m sure the rewards will come.”
 

“We have tried to nurture a super aggressive and positive approach,” Medland said. “Self-belief and taking a chance, never giving up on a ball – especially at training – and an aggressive game plan that has given all of our senior teams a chance to win each week.”
 

When Medland returned to the Preston club, he felt that there was some “unfinished business.”
 

“l wanted to repay the club for allowing me to reach one of my goals in baseball and do my part of getting the club back on track for its centenary in 2010,” he said.
 

As a club that was so well regarded for much of its time in previous decades, the Preston Baseball Club was anxious to help rebuild the qualities that had help make the club great.
 

“So much of it is about respect,” said Medland, who set stringent early standards for player commitment and sought to make a break from the “I’ll play when I feel like it” attitude that can characterise lower grade clubs or those not enjoying playing success.
 

“Respect for each other, respect for the club and respect for the game is what we are about,” he said.
 

Like plenty of others – such as its opponent on Sunday – the Preston Baseball Club has gone through some tough times. Like others, it has been fortunate to have had the support of former members and club stalwarts who did the hard yards – especially over the past few years.
 

The Pirates appear to be on the cusp of a resurgence. But as an inner-suburban club with a changing demographic, Medland concedes that nothing can be taken for granted. He knows that goals need to be realistic.
 

“The hard working loyal Preston members who got us through the tough times have set us up with a strong base. Now we are at the middle stages and with a lot of hard work we could start pushing through sooner than we thought.”
 

“Former club legends like Mick and Jon Deeble, Phil Allen and Rod Steer have been tremendously supportive of what we are doing,” Medland said. “Alex Djorgonoski has been pro-active as President and David Moloney has given me great support as Assistant Coach.”
 

“We have the best ground in Melbourne and the best baseball facilities,” Medland said. ” We have our own grounds keeper who mows the ground every Tuesday and Thursday – so it’s perfect for when we train.”
 

“There has been a great feel around the club this year with a social function every couple of weeks, after game dinners and a few club poker tournaments. The players have been looked after extremely well with Thursday night meals after training and happy hours at most functions.”
 

“As a club, I believe we are doing a lot of things right, with the natural growth of our juniors who are coming through,” Medland said.
 

“With a few recruits and a couple of past players returning to the club we are sitting in a healthy position to take the next step. We aim to run Preston like a Division One club, and hopefully that will pay off in the near future.”
 

While the senior season could realistically be over by 4.00 pm next Sunday, Pirates President Alex Djorgonoski remains focused on his club’s goals.
 

“Short term,” he said, “we want to advance to Division Two by way of finishing in the Grand Final, hopefully winning it. If we get to Division Two by way of a restructure then that’s fine as well. I can see this club being seriously competitive in the higher grade.”
 

“Our junior programme is fundamental to our future success.”
 

Placing the sport in a life context, Djorgonoski sees a wider purpose to what can be achieved.
 

“We want to build our club and our community spirit to where it was just a few years ago,” he said. “To where you make lifelong friends and preserve the history of a proud club that started up nearly a hundred years ago.”
 

“We have inherited the responsibility to carry the flame for the next generation of Pirates. We treasure that responsibility – and we take it very seriously.”

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Les Gosstray in his heyday

“These were great, fun people who loved the community and the sport,” said Djorgonoski. “The after games were wonderful occasions where everyone would return for a drink and a laugh. I can remember Norm hanging off the rafters trying to hold himself up giving a great speech to both teams and welcoming everyone back”.
 

In those halcyon decades at Robinson Reserve, Mike and Don Deeble built the bar. Perhaps Mike built it mostly, but Don looked after quality control and testing.
 

This was the era of the infamous “wall of abuse”. Although it was tempting for some to be “sucked in” by the torrent of comment, jibes and one-liners coming from the hill, it was all in good fun. For the most part.
 

“We used to reel some of them in,” said Djorgonski. “But then it was all back to the rooms, have a laugh and a few beers and settle any differences.”
 

While it is easy to reflect upon the good times, the Preston Pirates are very much looking forward and are already seeing their five-year plan beginning to bear fruit.
 

In appointing former player Stuart Medland to the club coaching role, they have been on a real winner. Medland has been able to build on the “foundation” work provided by Gerard Cooper, Michael Deeble and Geoff Rietschel in recent years.
 

Djorgonoski is clear on what Medland was able to bring to the club.
 

“What we have seen is a tremendous team spirit develop within all the players, brought on by some very straight forward assessments and very good coaching of players who want to work towards the promotion of the club to second division and beyond,” he said.
 

“Stuart as head coach and David Maloney as his assistant have led from the front with real passion. Stuart has been involved in all parts of the club from training to game day. But he is also a man’s man – he loves a drink with the guys and is in boots and all. A bit like Jon Deeble. He seems to relate to his players well and he can rip into them – if need be – without them getting pissed off.”
 

Djorgonoski believes that genuine team spirit has been instilled in the players by a coach who understands that hard work, a little fun and a serious commitment to each other will reap the rewards.
 

The club lost a number of promising youngsters prior to this season but others have stepped up – including the President’s son Nick, who is having a fantastic season. But there are others with bright futures in the game.
 

“Heath Pendlebury and his brother Blake,” Djorgonoski said. “And Alex Canny. But there are plenty more coming through the junior ranks.”
 

Former premiership player, Club Coach Stuart Medland knew quite well that he was taking on a significant challenge, even after the great spadework put in by Mike Deeble and Geoff Rietschel in recent years. Medland was committed to not recruiting and trying to bring players along with him. He saw the potential within the club and was confident that his coaching abilities could help take the club to higher levels.
 

What stung him, early on, was the revelation that he would not have some of the emerging players at his disposal.
 

“After losing four good players from last year’s line-up, on paper we were not going to win a game,” Medland said. “But with the return of a couple of former Pirates our team was transformed to a bunch of guys prepared to play hard and take in the new message. We put into place a game plan that breaks down everyone’s role and defines what they need to do to help the team win.”
 

“Rather than just playing the game, everything we do is for a purpose.”
 

“Preston’s junior program is in a strong position because of a lot of work over the past few years,” Medland said
 

An experienced man of the game, Medland has a decent handle on the relative standards in Baseball Victoria divisions and is looking forward with confidence.
 

“l believe the standard in Division Three is about equivalent to Division Two maybe ten years ago,” Medland said. “We were lucky enough to have six clubs going hard at each other each week, which is the perfect preparation for trying to get back to Division Two.”
 

“From the start of the season our club goal has always been to make it back to Division Two. As a team we are more focused on learning the game of baseball, turning bad habits into good habits and working harder than we did last week. I think we’ve fine-tuned certain areas of our game and I’m sure the rewards will come.”
 

“We have tried to nurture a super aggressive and positive approach,” Medland said. “Self-belief and taking a chance, never giving up on a ball – especially at training – and an aggressive game plan that has given all of our senior teams a chance to win each week.”
 

When Medland returned to the Preston club, he felt that there was some “unfinished business.”
 

“l wanted to repay the club for allowing me to reach one of my goals in baseball and do my part of getting the club back on track for its centenary in 2010,” he said.
 

As a club that was so well regarded for much of its time in previous decades, the Preston Baseball Club was anxious to help rebuild the qualities that had help make the club great.
 

“So much of it is about respect,” said Medland, who set stringent early standards for player commitment and sought to make a break from the “I’ll play when I feel like it” attitude that can characterise lower grade clubs or those not enjoying playing success.
 

“Respect for each other, respect for the club and respect for the game is what we are about,” he said.
 

Like plenty of others – such as its opponent on Sunday – the Preston Baseball Club has gone through some tough times. Like others, it has been fortunate to have had the support of former members and club stalwarts who did the hard yards – especially over the past few years.
 

The Pirates appear to be on the cusp of a resurgence. But as an inner-suburban club with a changing demographic, Medland concedes that nothing can be taken for granted. He knows that goals need to be realistic.
 

“The hard working loyal Preston members who got us through the tough times have set us up with a strong base. Now we are at the middle stages and with a lot of hard work we could start pushing through sooner than we thought.”
 

“Former club legends like Mick and Jon Deeble, Phil Allen and Rod Steer have been tremendously supportive of what we are doing,” Medland said. “Alex Djorgonoski has been pro-active as President and David Moloney has given me great support as Assistant Coach.”
 

“We have the best ground in Melbourne and the best baseball facilities,” Medland said. ” We have our own grounds keeper who mows the ground every Tuesday and Thursday – so it’s perfect for when we train.”
 

“There has been a great feel around the club this year with a social function every couple of weeks, after game dinners and a few club poker tournaments. The players have been looked after extremely well with Thursday night meals after training and happy hours at most functions.”
 

“As a club, I believe we are doing a lot of things right, with the natural growth of our juniors who are coming through,” Medland said.
 

“With a few recruits and a couple of past players returning to the club we are sitting in a healthy position to take the next step. We aim to run Preston like a Division One club, and hopefully that will pay off in the near future.”
 

While the senior season could realistically be over by 4.00 pm next Sunday, Pirates President Alex Djorgonoski remains focused on his club’s goals.
 

“Short term,” he said, “we want to advance to Division Two by way of finishing in the Grand Final, hopefully winning it. If we get to Division Two by way of a restructure then that’s fine as well. I can see this club being seriously competitive in the higher grade.”
 

“Our junior programme is fundamental to our future success.”
 

Placing the sport in a life context, Djorgonoski sees a wider purpose to what can be achieved.
 

“We want to build our club and our community spirit to where it was just a few years ago,” he said. “To where you make lifelong friends and preserve the history of a proud club that started up nearly a hundred years ago.”
 

“We have inherited the responsibility to carry the flame for the next generation of Pirates. We treasure that responsibility – and we take it very seriously.”