It was a warm Thursday evening in 1980 when 17-year-old Nic Pavlou headed down to the Ross Gregory Oval on Albert Park Lake, St Kilda, told by good mate Dave Clerehan that he was needed for just one game at the Power House Amateur Football Club (PHAFC).
As the story goes, Pavlou was needed for just one match, but stuck around for a few hundred more.
That “one match” became 296 games, 527 goals, a Reserves Best and Fairest in 1984, Vice President between 1993-1994, Club Life Membership, Chairman of Selectors in the 2006 Premiership team, President’s Award in 1993, Don McDonald Best Clubman Award, five Leading Goalkicker awards, a Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) Certificate of Merit winner, part of the team who started the PHAFC women’s program, and the longest serving President currently at 13 years and AFL Victoria’s State Volunteer of the Year 2018.
That’s a long list for a kid who was sure soccer was his calling, growing up in a Greek household where Australian Rules was foreign.
The call to be president came in 2009 and it was one Pavlou was willing to take.
His role sees him committed to the club for more than 30 hours a week, but he leans on those closest for ongoing guidance.
“The only way you can be President is if your family is understanding. I have a wonderful wife and two kids involved, so it’s a family affair,” Pavlou said.
“The average week is at least three weekday nights at the club for training and Saturdays for games. We have three games on a Saturday and I get to all of them.”
“Behind the scenes it’s 50 phone calls, countless club emails, liaising with past players, the VAFA, Parks Victoria, dealing with the Australian Grand Prix. That’s just the surface level stuff!”
“You’re always on, it’s a lot of hours in the week, but, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Flashforward to 2022 and Nic Pavlou has led Power House through a once in a lifetime pandemic, all with same determination he had as a 17-year-old.
“We had no idea what was going to hit us and the impact on our little football club. We ended up losing the whole 2020 season and only played half of the 2021 season.”
In unprecedented times, Pavlou’s wisdom and guidance were the light that salvaged a club in ruins, but the work to recover has barely begun.
Despite the pandemic being seen as ‘mostly over’ across Victoria, the rubble still remains for clubs like the Power House Amateur Football Club and Pavlou.
“We lost a couple of major sponsors – they couldn’t give money to a club that wasn’t functioning and playing,” he said.
“Most minor sponsors didn’t pay for a two-year period but we are working hard with those existing and new sponsors to get them re-engaged with the club.”
The club, without a school or university affiliation, has found other feeders through mateship, Lord Somers Junior Leadership Camp and a Gaelic football clubs.
But most of the Gaelic players headed home when COVID shut down Victoria in one of the longest lockdowns in the world, while the junior Lord Somers leadership camps were also unable to be run.
“We had a lot of players who came from the country, they haven’t returned because they couldn’t find work, couldn’t pay rent and wanted to be with their families after so many lockdowns – we had a strong link with a Gaelic Football feeder club, all of those players went back home too, and players are now electing to work on a Saturday instead of play footy,” he explains.
“That one extra day of work means a lot to catch up after losing so much over COVID – the potential men and women’s players who we target for our club are more interested in spending time with their families.
“You see that in increased visitation to shopping centres and social environments instead of playing football, I think it was like a 35 per cent increase in men in shopping centres (Westfield centres) since COVID,” he said.
But it’s time to move forward, Pavlou believes, to retain players and volunteers in the coming years.
“One thing I’m very proud of is the fact that in my 13 years as President, I’ve never has to ask or beg anyone to come onto the committee, even during COVID.”
And away from the pain caused by COVID, Pavlou has the club on track to finish the 2022 season strong and one day leave it in better shape than he found it in 42 years ago.
“The club belongs to the people, players and supporters. We as volunteers are custodians for a period of time – we have to leave the club better off than we found it,” he says.
“That’s what we need to do to continue the long, 75-year-tradition of our successful Power House Football Club – I came down for one game and forty-two years later, I’m still here.”