Officer stops to recognise Rob

The Porter family standing side-by-side with the Officer Football Club as they acknowledge the contributions of the late Robert Porter. 405141 Pictures: ROB CAREW

By Marcus Uhe

Officer Recreation Reserve looked an absolute picture on Saturday as the Officer Football Club acknowledged the contributions made by the late Robert Porter.

A minute of silence was observed for the passing of one of Officer’s favourite sons, with only the traffic along the Princes Highway outside the facility where his name will soon be enshrined in a permanent recognition of his contributions to the Reserve punctuating the tranquility on a sunny Autumn day as both Officer and Narre Warren paused before Saturday’s senior football contest.

Porter’s family joined Officer players, officials and committee members as they gathered in front of the RG Porter Social Rooms, also named after the great man, with Gareth Sheean addressing the crowd and recounting the staggering contribution Porter made to the community.

Earlier in the afternoon, Robert’s son, Geoff, and widow, Carol, addressed the Officer players in the social rooms in a moving pregame address that had the players transfixed.

Geoff recounted his father’s heroic performance in the club’s breakthrough 1961 grand final win over Kooweerup, the year he also claimed the South West Gippsland Football League’s Best and Fairest award as a 19-year-old, his cheeky but effective tackling technique that involved pinching his opponent’s skin when he grabbed their jumper, and the periods he served as coaching at both junior and senior clubs, all at a place that was like a second home.

Porter was Chairman of the Officer Recreation Reserve Committee of Management for 51 years, desperate to maintain the place in order to see the community, in particular the juniors, play sport – something he cherished doing himself.

Geoff Porter said that all the fanfare and attention would not have sat too well with his old man, a humble person not eager for the spotlight, but was grateful to the Football Club for dedicating the day to Robert and the family.

“When he first took over the Rec Reserve there was a little tin shed, there was one little oval that was just soil and mud, and now there’s two topclass sand couch ovals, there’s netball facilities, tennis facilities,” Geoff Porter said.

“To see what the Reserve has turned into, and to see it host grand finals, he was so very proud of what it’s become.

“I think if you can leave the place in a better place after you’ve passed, and be recognised for that, it’s a great honour.

“He just loved the place, if he wasn’t down at work he was down here fixing up stuff.

“It didn’t matter what time day or night, he’d be down here turning on the sprinklers, mowing grass, fixing whatever had to be done.

“The footy club has been fantastic with the support they’ve given the family.

“I’m really proud of what dad achieved in his life and for the footy club to take the time to recognise that has been a real honour for the family.”

The well wishes and expressions of gratitude for Robert and the family have been “overwhelming” since his passing on Christmas Day, 2023, but Geoff said the extent of his Father’s influence continues to impress him, and leaves the ideal legacy for a community focused man.

“What’s struck me is people have come up and said what an impact he had on their lives.

“He had an impact on my life and my family’s life but for them to say they’re really missing him, because they come down here and he’s not here, or they’re used to seeing him around the area….the impact he’s had on other people’s lives, for them to come out and say it, has been quite overwhelming.

“He did touch a lot of people’s lives.

“I look up to him and admire the work he did in his community.”