2023 Queensland Football Hall of Fame – Terry Weller

It’s a rare footballer who plays almost 500 games of senior football, but to supporters of Windsor-Zillmere and Aspley, that’s only half of the story when it comes to Terry Weller. He’s just a rare person, they say.

A footballer from the age of 12 when he began with the now forgotten Zillmere Foxes, Weller played 249 senior QAFL games with Windsor-Zillmere from 1965-77 and 222 senior games with Aspley in the then SQAFA from 1978-89. Toss in a large but unknown number of representative games for Queensland and the SQAFA, and more games as a non-playing coach, and you get to 500. Easily.

Toss in a shared Grogan Medal, awarded to the QAFL’s best player, and two Duncanson Medals, the equivalent in the SQAFA, plus two QAFL premierships and five SQAFA premierships it is certainly enough to call him a champion of Queensland football.

Only 185cm, he played at 115kg-plus in his later years. A big man with a big personality and a big heart. Now 73, he’s the senior member of a trio of brothers who are football royalty on the north side, and was also a recruiter, fundraiser, and football ambassador.

The induction of ‘Big T’ into the Queensland Football Hall of Fame completes a family double, with younger brother Neville, an under-sized but long-time Zillmere and Queensland ruckman, having been an inaugural inductee in 2008.

The third brother is Rodney, or ‘Frog’ as he’s more often called. Denied a long career at QAFL level by poor eye-sight, he was another Aspley stalwart on and off the field. Sisters Carolyn and Roslyn completed a large family, but in comparison to their parents’ family they were a small unit. Each was one of 10 children, which made cousins, nieces, and nephews something of a challenge when it came to numbers and names.

Growing up in Railton Street, Aspley, named after long-time football stalwart Eric Railton Snr, Weller was big even as a youngster and dominated junior football to such an extent he made his senior debut at 15 while at Wavell High School. He quickly established himself as a regular at fullback, and at 19, albeit retrospectively, he won the Grogan Medal. It was originally presented to Morningside’s Terry Johnston after he topped the vote tally on countback, but 20 years later the League scrapped the countback and awarded medals to Weller and Morningside’s Ken Garcia.

It was the first of four three-way ties. Southport’s David Crutchfield and Chris O’Sullivan tied with Morningside’s Ricky Chapman in 1992 before 12 months later it was Southport’s Jason Cotter, Kedron-Grange’s Dean Warren and Morningside’s Daryl Bourke. And in 2012 it was Southport’s Fraser Pope, Labrador’s Ryan Davey and Redland’s Tom Salter.

A Queensland representative in 1969 and 1971, Weller was a very good player who became a better player when Ron Russell took over as Zillmere captain-coach, and was a 1975-76 premiership star.

Russell was big on fitness. He increased training from Tuesdays and Thursdays to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and would often send his players on a long road run. As he recalls, Terry wasn’t always a big fan and among various devious plots was once caught catching a taxi from Geebung to Zillmere to shorten the journey.

But Russell remembers a time, too, when Zillmere played a pre-season game at Coorparoo. He told his players in advance that if they lost, they would stay on the ground and run four laps of the oval. They lost. A lot weren’t impressed, but the Weller brothers, with the likes of Barry Karklis and Dan Perry, were straight to it. Leaders of the playing group and totally committed to the cause.

“He was just a great clubman on and off the field … a real mainstay. Not only was he a very good player but whenever there was a social event he was involved. He was the sort of person that clubs at that time relied heavily on,” said Russell, forever grateful still for the ‘happy birthday’ call he gets every year from the Weller brothers.

Neville, speaking on his brother’s behalf as Terry battles ill-heath, said ‘that was just Terry’. There was no better moment when they shared the 1975-76 grand final wins over Mayne and Sandgate. So much did Neville respect his big brother that, rather than break his club games record at Zillmere, he left the Eagles to play alongside him with the Hornets. It was a record that later fell to Danny Dickfos, but he’d made his point.

“Terry was my hero. He dominated everything as a kid and I always wanted to be just like him. He was always big, and the older he got the bigger he got. But he was such a smart player he could always hold his own,” said Neville, who at 189cm was a big ruck-rover who played in the ruck.

After his outstanding career at Zillmere Terry Weller moved to Aspley and served as playing-coach from 1978-79 and 1981-84, recruiting some very good players on the back of his alluring personality. After he stepped away from coaching he played on from 1985-89, often with ‘Frog’, and played in seven SQAFA grand finals, winning five in a row from 1985-89 until his retirement at age 39.

He won the Duncanson Medal in 1978 and 1982 and was runner-up three times. He was vice-captain of the SQAFA representative side in 1978-89 and 1981-82, captain-coach in 1983, captain in 1984, captain-coach in 1986-87 and coach in 1989. In nine years SQAFA won the South Queensland title five times.

He worked in insurance in his early days and later in real estate before a long stint as a sales representative in the wine and spirits game. It was the perfect job for the ‘jolly giant’ who got along with everyone, but the long hours spent working with publicans was not always best for his football.

Terry and wife Jennifer had three children – Rachel, Carl, and Kate. He coached Carl’s junior sides at Aspley and North Brisbane from Under 11s to Under 19s, and inspired many young players including Carl’s best mate, the late Jeff Cooper, Zillmere player turned Lions rookie who was like a second son.

Carl remembers how Terry wasn’t averse to a long night at training. He’d look after the boys on the track, and later he’d drop into the clubhouse to catch up with their parents. It was the same on game day, with lengthy post-game celebrations ending with “Dad, can we please go home now?”

Devoted to both clubs, he helped resurrect Zillmere in 1997 after they’d run into money troubles. With a bunch of Zillmere Old Boys he got things back on track at O’Callaghan Park under the new name of the Northern Eagles, and was the president until the club changed its name again to the Zillmere Eagles in 2006. 

Throughout his career, Weller was always especially close to his extended family, including cousin and ex- Zillmere player Rod Lake. Even today, as he lives in a retirement home at Sandgate, they make up a wonderful family support team. Health-permitting, “Big T” will join family and friends at the Hall of Fame dinner on 4 November. Football, family and fun. It’s what he does best.

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