Affectionately known as ‘Mr Coorparoo’, Vic Giffin was a pivotal figure in the formation, success, and ageless legacy of the Coorparoo Football Club, and a 50-year servant of Australian football in Queensland as a player, visionary and administrator.
Born in 1923, he was one of eight children who grew up at Kelsey Street, Coorparoo. He played football at Coorparoo State School while also excelling in the pool and on the track. He won two state swimming titles and such was his speed he won a spot in the Brisbane Juniors rugby league team. But older brother Fred, himself a passionate and promising player, encouraged him to focus on Australian football and after school. He did just that.
As Evan Findlay, author of the Coorparoo Football Club History, recounts, at the start of the 1937 season, after two years in the Past Pupils competition, Coorparoo, struggling to field an A-Grade side, amalgamated with South Brisbane, who battled for a B-Grade side. At the end of 1940, the QANFL disbanded the South Brisbane club in favour of Coorparoo.
The League issued a statement declaring, “Coorparoo is a growing district and the team will be fed by one of the largest schools in the city – Coorparoo State School – where the national code is played exclusively”. Vic and Fred Jnr were united as Coorparoo, and with the help of Fred Snr, rejoined the premier domestic competition.
Over the next 15 years, Vic Giffin played 263 A-Grade games for the Roos, in the centre and on the wing, to rank 11th on the all-time QAFL games list for a long time. He captained the 1952 team and was runner-up in the Grogan Medal before hanging up the boots in 1964.
In retirement he served as Coorparoo secretary from 1954-1970 and president from 1972-1974, working tirelessly with long-serving Patron Jack Handasyde, among others, to build a successful and inclusive club on and off the field, and not just at Coorparoo. In 1956, he and fellow committee member Les Appleton turned their focus on the Mt. Gravatt district, facilitating Under-12 and Under-14 teams in 1956-57.
Through the late 1950s and the 1960s, he was instrumental in taking the game to regional areas. He organised exhibition games been Sandgate, Wilston-Grange and the visiting Wangaratta clubs in Bundaberg, Dalby, Gympie and Ipswich, giving the code a presence in traditional rugby league heartland. He even found time to be the official Queensland team trainer at the All-Australian carnival in Melbourne.
In 1961, he received the prestigious ‘Merit Award’ from Australian National Football Council for his tireless work in the promotion of the game. In 1962 he supported a program led by ex-Yeronga and Coorparoo player John Cansdale to reform the South Brisbane FC.
Perhaps the greatest legacy came in 1968 when, after countless meetings with council and government ministers, and one pivotal meeting he had personally with Lord Mayor Clem Jones, Coorparoo secured the lease on the old Coorparoo Racecourse. They set about turning the one-time tip into a first-class playing arena, later supplemented in 1971 by a modern clubhouse.
In recognition of his enormous contribution from the birth of the club in 1935, it was named “Vic Giffin Oval” by the Council. In time it would host numerous QAFL grand finals, become the headquarters of the QAFL, a long-time training base of the Brisbane Lions, including the 2001-02-03 premiership era, and hosted a Lions’ pre-season game against Richmond in 2014. It will always be remembered as the junior home of Jason Dunstall, who went on to become the AFL’s #3 all-time goal-kicker and a legend of the game after starring in Coorparoo’s 1984 premiership side.
After stepping down from his role as secretary in 1970, Giffin took over as Coorparoo president from 1972-74 and during the 1973 season the QAFL executive, recognising his specific talent and commitment to the promotion of the game, engaged his services to advance the code via radio and television. Later he took over the role as Coorparoo Social Club President, working tirelessly to raise funds for the senior and junior clubs. In 1980 the Coorparoo constitution was re-written and a board of directors was put in place. Giffin, rightly so, was inaugural chairman for two years. After all, he was ‘Mr Coorparoo’.