Alan Joyce, the captain-coach of the Bullants’ back-to-back VFA premierships in 1968 and 1969, will be honoured with Life Membership at the club’s Annual General Meeting on Friday.
Joyce kicked 228 goals in 92 games as a Bullant, 10 of which were kicked across the two Grand Final triumphs against Prahran and Dandenong respectively.
Now aged 78, Joyce went on to coach Hawthorn and Footscray in the national competition, leading the Hawks to the 1988 and 1991 premierships in the process.
It’s more than half a century since Preston’s back-to-back flags, but they, and the club, still hold a proud place in Joyce’s story.
“I received a call from the club a few weeks ago and they said they would like to grant me Life Membership, and I said I would only be too delighted to accept it,” Joyce said.
“It’s great. It (Joyce’s time at the Bullants) started my career off.
“We had probably four or five good years – great years – and it was a great time there where it was being virtually televised every week, with all the main games on Channel 0 in those days.
“We used to average probably 10,000 or more per game at Cramer Street. We had tremendous support and it was a great period of footy, really.
“The VFA was played on a Sunday, and the VFL, in those days, was a typical Saturday game, so people were looking for something to do, either watching it on telly or coming to a game.”
Joyce fondly recalls the support of the Bullants fans who would pack out Preston City Oval at each home game, and is particularly pleased to see the club resurrected after its alignment with the Carlton Football Club ceased in early 2020.
“We had a lot of support from Collingwood people – it was virtually their second club – and on a match day on Sundays there would be a fairly large group of Collingwood players who would come along and watch the team.
“Cramer Street was a part of that history and I’m just glad to see where it is now, coming back. Last year looked like it would be the demise of the club, but now it has been resurrected as the Northern Bullants and I’m just looking forward to seeing their success this year.”
1968 Preston FC premiership history book courtesy of Cameron Towson
The back-to-back premierships won in ’68 and ’69 created some of Joyce’s fondest football memories and connections that still last to this day.
“As a club, we had a tremendous relationship with one another,” he continued.
‘It was a side that was brought together by virtually VFL players that were discarded or weren’t up to it, and that group seemed to grow together as a collective. We had a great time together in those days.
“It was a pretty tough competition as well, and we enjoyed it, and enjoyed each other’s company. Even today, we still see some of the players quite regularly. After all these years we’re still friendly with them.
“One of my best friends is Denis Dalton, he was first rover in those five years. The other one is Bruce Reid, who unfortunately passed away only some months ago. He was Essendon’s club doctor for well over 20 years. There were players like Kevin McLean, Dick Telford and players of that ilk who ran through the side, and they are the sorts of players who you see, not on a regular basis, but you come into contact with them from time to time.
“We had some very memorable victories over that period of time which were important to build that sort of relationship with the club.
“After those premierships, we went back to Preston, and after one of them they came back to my place.
“It was the sort of environment that we had at that stage which made it not just a footy club, but a club within a club. All the players and their wives got on well together, and it was a big occasion to compete and win those games.”
Though he has climbed the mountain as a dual AFL premiership coach, Joyce’s first foray into senior coaching – as a playing coach, no less – remains one of his fondest memories.
“It gave me the start,” he reflected.
“I was only 23 at the time, and that point is very important to me, because I came to the club and I hadn’t had any experience in coaching. I had to virtually learn as I went.
“There was some teething all the way through, but it holds very high in what I look at footy and the different areas I’ve been in, it’s very high on the list, put it that way. Very high.”
• 2021 Membership card
• 2021 Membership lanyard
• Access to all home games
• Half price entry at all away games
And that’s just for starters.
— Northern Bullants FC (@NBullantsFC) February 10, 2021