Neil Upton, an inaugural legend in the recently-established Sunshine Coast AFL Hall of Fame, has passed away aged 82.

Wednesday, 18 August, 2010

“He is like a grandpa to all the boys at the footy club.”

As reported today by Jon Tuxworth in the Sunshine Coast Daily, these were the words of Maroochy Northshore Roos captain Ryan White after learning that club legend Neil Upton yesterday had lost his battle with cancer.

As Tuxworth wrote in a story posted here with the kind permission of the Sunshine Coast Daily, with those 13 words White summed up perfectly just what the Roos’ longtime strapper meant to the team.

Upton had been battling malignant melanomas and was too ill to attend the June function where he was named one of the Sunshine Coast AFL Hall of Fame’s inaugural “Legends”.

The 82-year-old was one of those loyal stalwarts every footy club needs. He was a bloke who would warmly greet everyone who crossed his path. The passionate clubman who would work himself to a standstill as long as it helped his beloved Roos’ cause.

Earlier this year, Upton estimated he had strapped more than 18,000 ankles and used at least 45km of tape in his 35 seasons at the club.

But mere numbers cannot do justice to the impact he had on the players under his care.

In May, the Roos’ home ground at Fishermans Road was christened Neil Upton Oval – an impressive accolade for an impressive man.

“He is just one of the nicest old men that you’ll ever meet and he treated the players like they were his own kids,” White said. “All the time he put into the club is second to none and he will always be a special bloke for all us boys.
“It was hard to see him so sick, but now he’s at rest and he doesn’t have to fight anymore.”

The Roos begin their Pineapple Hotel Cup finals campaign against Sandgate in Brisbane on Saturday and White expects his pre-game “pep talk” to be the easiest of his career.

“Bad luck to Sandgate, because we’ll be going out there with our hearts pumping, that’s for sure,” White declared.

“All the guys have their own special memories of Neil and I’m sure it will spur the boys on a little bit more.”

“We played Sandgate, too, the day they named our ground after him. We won that game for him and hopefully we’ll be doing everything to do the same this week,” White said.

White has many fond memories of Upton but one tale encapsulates in a nutshell Upton’s passion for the club.

“Two years ago we were playing at Mayne and we’d only won like two games the whole year,” White recalled.

“That year we were joking around a fair bit and before that match one of the guys was getting strapped by someone else and mucking around a bit.

“Uppo turned around and yelled at him ‘are you a bloody clown?’

“He knew we weren’t going to make the finals but he was still passionate about doing his job well for the boys.”

Less than three weeks ago, Roos forward Ben Stanley responded with this when asked by this paper whether Upton’s ill health was a motivating factor for the team.

“He’s a massive driving force for us.We want to try and win a premiership for him,” he said.

No doubt when the club took a moment at training last night to reflect on Upton’s legacy, that pledge would have increased ten-fold.

Upton is survived by sons Col and Cliff, and extended family.

* The funeral will be held at 12noon next Monday 23 August at the Baptist Church at the end of Wises Road in Maroochydore, with a gathering to follow at the Maroochydore North Shore Footy club at Fishermans Road Maroochydore.

Story / Photograph courtesy Sunshine Coast Daily.

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