In very sad news for the Eltham rugby community, Gordon Harrop – founding member of Eltham Rugby Union Football Club and much-loved club legend – passed away in the early hours of Tuesday morning at Geelong Hospital, just days after his 80th birthday, following a short illness. On behalf of our club and the broader Victorian rugby community, we extend our condolences to his daughters Stephanie and Raechelle, sons Craig and Graham, and their families.
Originally from Manchester, UK, Gordon and his wife, Marie, came to Australia at the request of his employers, aged just 22. Living initially in Sunshine, Gordon played for Footscray Rugby Club and coached juniors from Sunshine and Williamstown Technical Colleges. In 1970, a group of good friends at Footscray, spearheaded by Gordon, Don O’Hagan and Dale Hough, pondered the idea of forming a rugby club in the Eltham area where they were living at the time. An ad in the local paper resulted in some twenty or so respondents, thus forming the nucleus for a new club. This became a reality in 1971 with the official entry of the Yarra Valley Rugby Union Football Club, later Eltham RUFC, into the Victorian Rugby Union competition. Their home ground at the time was Andrew Park, affectionately if not notoriously known as “Bog Park”, a characteristic sometimes shared by the club’s current home ground at Bridge St. From humble beginnings in the in VRU 4th Easts competition, the club grew, fielding multiple senior sides and establishing a Pathway/Junior rugby program. With Gordon as coach, the club won their first senior grade premiership in 1980.
Both on and off the field, Gordon’s passion for the Eltham club was enduring. He undertook multiple Committee roles including that of Treasurer (1975-78), Head Coach (1973-74, 1980-82) and President (1983-84). His contribution to the club was recognised with Life Membership. During this time Marie and the rest of the Harrop family were actively engaged with the club; this was especially evident with both Gordon and son Graham being selected to represent Victoria in rugby.
The club stands as a testament to the vision and drive of Gordon and a band of fellow rugby enthusiasts – we are so grateful that we had the opportunity to celebrate this at the 50th Anniversary Dinner with both Gordon and Don in attendance, providing a memorable re-telling of club history. It was always a highlight for players and supporters alike to see Gordon in attendance at our home games and at grand finals – his enthusiasm for our (his) club was never diminished. A man for whom the term club legend was never more apt.
Tim Adams, 2022 Club Vice President