Meet Kim Stahl, Queensland Football Hall of Famer, and his wife Kim. Confusing? Yes. Think about it. Even opening the mail would be a challenge. But what is not confusing is the legacy of a quarter of a century spent investing significantly in football in Mt. Isa and the Central Highlands.
From Greensborough in Melbourne’s Diamond Valley League, Stahl was a would-be Collingwood ruckman turned mining engineer who became a great of Mt. Isa football, first as a player and later as a founder of the Central Highlands Australian Football League, and a long-time coach and administrator.
It was a football journey that began at age 12 in Greensborough, 17km north-east of the Melbourne CBD, where his father William, a passionate-plus Essendon supporter, was involved with the Under 13’s. He drove all over Melbourne to watch him play, but his mother Margery, an equally big fan of Bombers’ great John Coleman, was banned from watching because she got upset if he was knocked around.
He played Under 13s-15s-17s and as a self-confessed “good average ruckman” won the Sporting Globe Boy of the Week. The accompanying article identified “some rough edges” but suggested Collingwood have a look at him. They did. He played two years in the Collingwood Under 19s under Ron Richards, brother of the inimitable Lou Richards. He was promoted to the Reserves and when he dropped back to the Under 19s for the 1972 finals, played in the curtain-raiser to the first AFL final at Waverley. He was third in the U19 best and fairest and was presented with his trophy by Len Thompson, who in the same year had won the Brownlow Medal.
In 1973 he won a spot on a Collingwood senior list overloaded with ruck talent, most notably Thompson and Graeme ‘Jerker’ Jenkins. Still, after a string of good games in the Reserves, highlighted by a good showing against Fitzroy legend Norm Brown at Junction Oval, he was told by a selector they were looking at giving him a run in the seniors. Sadly, a kidney complaint cut short his immediate dreams, and as he recounted “I found out how good I wasn’t” when he later played against Richmond Team of the Century ruckman in his return from a year off. The year after Stahl left Collingwood, Peter Moore arrived, prompting many a light-hearted reference to the ‘coodabeen career’ at what was then Victoria Park had he not been book-ended by two Brownlow Medalists.
At 21 he went back to Greensborough in 1974. After completing a degree in mining engineering at RMIT he moved to Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, playing at Kambalda in 1975 while working underground. In 1976 he headed north looking for work, and landed in Mary Kathleen, where a mine that had been shut down in the 1960s was being reopened. They had a football team, too. He was sold.
The Mary Kathleen Magpies were admitted into the Mt. Isa League in 1976 and in five years he won five consecutive clubs best and fairest awards. He won the League’s Cargill Medal in 1976-78-80, was runner-up in 1977 and played in premierships in 1977-78-79, sharing the 1977 flag with brother Dale. In Mt. Isa, too, he met a teenage girl called Kim.
In 1981 he moved south to the Goonyella Mine in the Central Highlands, where the Moranbah Bulldogs, 200km south-west of Mackay, had recently joined the Mackay League. Having already represented the Mt. Isa League (1976−80) and won the medal at the 1976 NQ carnival, he won a sixth consecutive best and fairest with Moranbah in 1981, represented the Mackay League (1981−82) in the North Queensland championships, and was best afield in Mackay’s 1982 NQ Grand Final against Townsville. Even his Mum was allowed to watch him play.
Living in Moranbah, he took over as president in his second year and was married. The ‘Kim & Kim Show’ was born. ‘Mrs Kim’ was involved in the club too, primarily as canteen convenor, and was named ‘Best Club Person’. Given that ‘Mr Kim’ met ‘Mrs Kim” in Mary Kathleen they were football’s antithesis of ‘Kath & Kim”, the dysfunctional mother-daughter duo of television fame. In stark contrast, they have been a perfectly well-functioning husband-wife duo of country football fame.
As Moranbah president, Stahl became a foundation member of the Central Highlands AFL, formed in 1983. On the field he starred as the Central Highlands representative team beat the Maryborough and Capricornia Leagues in their first season and was best afield as they hosted QAFL club Morningside in the statewide competition. A subsequent knee injury limited his football, and he played only fleetingly thereafter in Moranbah and later Dysart as his focus turned off-field.
He played a key role in the planning and building of the Moranbah clubhouse, and when the Moranbah juniors formed their own club, he was a prized ‘recruit’ and has been involved in junior football ever since. It was a proud moment when Moranbah hosted a statewide Under-13 carnival in the mid-1980s.
A senior management promotion to the Norwich Park Mine saw him move to Dysart, where the senior club, well-briefed on his passions and capabilities, asked Stahl to re-start the Dysart juniors. They played in the Mackay competition, and later he became Central Highlights AFL junior coordinator and re-started their junior football. Son Kynan began his own football junior with Auskick in Dysart.
In 2000 he took a position at Century Mine in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Living in Mt. Isa, he worked in the gulf on a fly-in, fly-out basis. It was a measure of his importance to football in the Central Highlands region that when he moved north the junior competition folded. Only Moranbah survived.
In 2003 he was appointed Mine Manager at Cumnock in the Hunter Valley, and having moved to Singleton, 200km north-west of Sydney, he got involved at junior and senior level with the Roosters in the Black Diamond League. He was a coach, team manager and ran the Friday night raffles. Anything that needed to be done. His son, who had played in a Queensland Under-13 carnival in Townsville, progressed to senior and representative level in Singleton and it was a proud ‘Kim & Kim’ moment when he won a ‘School Blue’ at Hunter Valley Grammar School.
Stahl received an Australia Day Award for service to junior football in Dysart in 1998, was awarded an AFL Merit Award in 1999 and an Australian Sports Medal, presented on behalf of the Queen at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He is the only life member of the Moranbah seniors and juniors, and a life member of the Dysart juniors.
His retirement from the mines in 2007 meant more time for football. He helped a mate for five years at King Street School and started football at Singleton Heights Primary School – boys and girls – and later coached the new women’s team and the Under-16 girls. Tragically, his last involvement with the Roosters was to coach, among others, a mother and daughter who died in a bus accident as it returned to Singleton from a wedding in July 2023. He knew many of the victims.
As he reflected on a lifetime in football, he cherished the opportunity to play all over regional Queensland. In addition to his club football, he played representative games in Cairns, Townsville, Mackay and Alice Springs, and for North Queensland against South Queensland at the Gabba as a curtain-raiser to Queensland’s game against the VFA. He played against PNG in Cairns.
What is he most proud of? Simply, he said, being able to help develop junior football in the coalfields. Noting the courage of the Central Highlands League to plan and launch junior clubs and to push through the ups and downs that are inevitable in the transient environment that is mining life. Many sports have folded as families move back to the coast, and he loves the fact that more and more young boys and girls in the region are playing the game that has been such a big part of his life for so long.
He was “surprised, honoured and even emotional” when told of his Hall of Fame induction, he celebrated on 2 August with his 70th birthday as the ‘Kim and Kim Show’ went international, touring Norway on a long-overdue holiday. He’d come a long way had the boy from Greensborough.