Page 1765 - Week 05 - Thursday, 11 May 2017

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From its first home at the Royal Hotel, the new club moved for the first official meeting to a little shed in the middle of what became the football field, before the Monaro Marco Polo Club was built, which was used by the community to play bocce and cards, and, of course, to have a drink. The first order of business at that first meeting was to agree on a name for the club. Mario Donda, a 1967 foundation player whose father had formed the club, recalled that they could not get agreement, so he suggested that, since the club played in the electorate of Eden-Monaro, they call it Monaro. That was duly accepted. I quote Mario’s recollection:

We went into the second division … with a 100 per cent record.

Mario said:

We were playing against teams from the Police Force, the RAAF, Army, R.M.C. Kosciosko and Braddon, there was even a side from the Bureau of Statistics. Football in those days was very volatile and people brought their rivalries from the old country onto the playing fields. I remember one year there were two Spanish teams—one supported Franco and the other the Republicans. We were playing at Woden in a double header and they were on first. There was a riot with the crowd joining in. One team got kicked out of the competition and the other was heavily penalised.

Mario said he was proud that Monaro were never about politics. Monaro soccer club was about football, the beauty of playing the game and winning. They always had an open door for anybody who came along to training and was good enough. They got a game. They got some game time.

Monaro went from strength to strength, entering the New South Wales state league in 1978 and winning it twice. In 1984 Monaro was promoted to the national league. A period of rapid decline followed, which saw the club briefly go into recess at the beginning of the 1990s. Then one day Mario Donda got a call from a friend saying that there were all these kids running around Canberra and Queanbeyan with no team to play for and would he help re-form the club? Mario Donda recalled that they did that in 1995. He said:

It was like the 1960s all over again with the same ideals, football, the families and so on, we had to start at the bottom, this time it was the fifth division. Just like before we played our way back, got to the top level and won the 1999 Premier League title.

Now in his 70s, Mario may not be as involved as he was, but he says:

Whenever I hear the name “Monaro” my heart skips a beat.

Another former player whose heart skips a beat every time Monaro is mentioned is John Santolin, one of the great players of Monaro, who recalled the following memories, which I believe capture very well the spirit of Monaro. He said:

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