Total Football : The Geoff Hurford Profile.

“I was looking up at the sky wondering why? It was total domination for 85 minutes and just that lack of concentration,” says Geoff shaking his head. “Oxley beat us, a team who finished fourth, 18 points behind us.” With two minutes to go East’s were 1-0 up and looking at successive Grand Final victories and two seasons undefeated. A rare lapse and two goals cost them glory. Geoff feels the injustice, “The girls didn’t deserve that.”

Eastern Suburbs Women’s Division Four team may have lost the Grand Final 2-1 but coach Geoff Hurford’s playing season was a success. As well as being named in the Brisbane Premier League team of the year, many of the Capalaba in-house awards came his way too with Defender of the Year, Players Player of the Year and Coaches Player of the Year. All this despite a fractured cheekbone mid-season, but he feels the time out actually helped him finish the season in fine form.

It was quite an eventful year for Geoff. But it’s been a work in progress over many years of hard work which all started at Lota Primary School, his first taste of organised football. He then started a 16 year association with Wynnum when he joined the under 11’s.

His first team debut for Wynnum came in 2001, the year they won the Brisbane Premier League. By 2007, Geoff was captain of the side and club captain, a reflection of the high regard with which his peers and management held him.

Yet halfway through that season there was a misunderstanding of the role of the senior players committee by the new Yugoslavian coach. Geoff and two of his teammates were released as the manager felt they were bringing the club down from within.

While football is seen as the beautiful game, played around the world, across many cultures and languages, even following the right protocol exposes differences from nation to nation, even at this level.

After an 18-month stint with Mt Gravatt, Geoff moved to Capalaba in 2009 to join former teammates from Wynnum. He became captain, and Capalaba made the top four in their first season in the Brisbane Premier League. “Our major goal was to stay up,” Geoff says. “Traditionally a team coming up to the BPL will struggle, and struggle pretty badly. Often going straight back down.”

That wasn’t all. “Capalaba made the Grand Final, but we lost,” says Geoff. “To Wynnum.” He breaks out into a laugh: “I was given plenty of stick that day I can tell you.”

However, Geoff felt he wanted to give something back to local football. A conversation with Lex Donsky, Eastern Suburbs Senior Players Director, led to a coaching role at the club. “I’ve taken a lot from football, I even get paid for playing, so coaching was the way to go.”

Geoff says he enjoys coaching the women: “It’s very rewarding. There’s been a massive improvement in the two years I’ve coached here, from where the girls were to where they are now. Not that I can take all the credit for that.” The pleasure Geoff gets is more than great results on the pitch: “Watching them grow as players and individuals is very rewarding.”

Whilst they were subdued after the Grand Final defeat, Geoff said Mad Monday was a different story, “The girls just got stuck into it.” He knows that being close off the park will help the girls be stronger on it. “Nana Wilson knows about bonding, she makes sure everyone’s alright when they go out.”

Melissa ‘Nana’ Wilson has played at East’s for six years and is now entering her third season with Geoff as the coach. The midfield dynamo takes her football very seriously, yet it was always having a hanky at the ready that led to the nickname. “Jodie gave me the name, she noticed I always had a hanky. But I am one of the older ones and I do look after the girls on a night out.”

She enjoys Geoff’s coaching methods: “He’s very professional, a great motivator and because he is so well regarded as a player everybody listens to him.” Having led East’s to two successive Grand Finals they have respect for him. “The previous coach was too casual, when Geoff came in everybody responded. Training was so much harder but we were undefeated for two seasons up until the last Grand Final.”

Geoff is well known at Capalaba Bulldogs and Eastern Suburbs for being involved with the clubs as a whole. Peter Davidson, Eastern Suburbs Premier Reserves assistant coach, says the football fraternity hold him in high regard: “He’s also a passionate football man, an honest and reliable player who reads the game very well.”

Both Peter and Geoff were at the East’s home ground the weekend after the floods hit Brisbane. Geoff’s generosity was also on show when Peter’s side won the League. “He was over congratulating me and the players before we got off the park!”

So with his commitments to both East’s and Capalaba does his girlfriend get a look in? “She’s just back from a week in Kuala Lumpur refereeing, then she’s off to Portugal.” His girlfriend Jacqui Melksham is a FIFA approved official, so there’s plenty of football in their lives. “With her commitments she can’t have a crack at me. But as soon as the season’s over that’s it until pre-season. Total switch off.”

At 31 Geoff knows he can only go on playing for so long: “Barring injuries I may have two more seasons left in me.  But I wish to continue my coaching career. I’ve taken on an assistant coaching role at Capalaba to learn under our coach Dave Illiff.  If you want to learn you have to put yourself around good coaches. Perhaps in five or six years I can be coaching Men’s Brisbane Premier League.”

Geoff’s coaching ambitions will lead him away from Nana Wilson and the girls he’s nurtured into a successful footballing side. But when he decides to make that step he will go with the very best of wishes. “I’ll be disappointed if he moves on,” said Nana. “He’s done some great work here. But he definitely deserves to coach at a higher level.”

Pre-season is now underway and East’s, led by Geoff, are aiming to overcome the nauseating defeat in last year’s Grand Final. With no competitive match for three months to put that feeling to bed the girls will be desperate to start the new season in Division Three with a win and just see where it will take them.

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