This Sunday, the Round 3 ‘Battle of the Bell’ between Coburg and Northern Blues will be significant for a different reason.
The sister of Coburg legend Phil, Vicki was fatally stabbed by her ex-boyfriend nearly 30 years ago, and this year will see the inaugural ‘Vicky Cleary Tribute Day’ held at Piranha Park.
Sitting in the Coburg clubrooms, in front of the number 18 locker which features his name painted on the front, Phil shared some memories he had with Vicki and what this game will mean in the campaign to end family and domestic violence.
“My 200th game was here in these very rooms, and I reckon I was just about here after the game,” Phil said, pointing to the right of where he was sitting.
“The room was full of people; it was full of atmosphere, and Vicki was there.”
“I remember turning at one point and I vividly remember she had the cake in her hand, with candles on it.”
“It was a beautiful moment, she was 25 years of age and was such a woman of substance and spirit.”
In another memory shared by Phil, he remembered Vicki running through the car park outside Coburg City Oval after the last game of the season in 1987.
But sadly, little did he know, a week later she would be dead.
With immense strength Phil continued at Coburg, retiring as a player at the end of that same year, and commencing as coach for the 1988 season.
“I actually went on to coach two premierships, and I look back now and think that was kind of remarkable,” Phil said.
“It was probably a tribute to my family, and my Mum and Dad, and the spirit they generated.”
“Mum always said to me ‘I want you to continue on, I don’t want you to stop. We’ve still got to on with life while we remember Vicki,’” He continued.
Having won the premiership just one year after the death of his sister, Phil recalls it as a powerful moment that brought comfort to his family.
“I looked to the players, in the rooms at Windy Hill before the game, and spoke to them about Vicki and said ‘nothing will bring Vicki back, but a victory will bring some comfort to my family, so I hope we can do it.’”
A woman who was full of life according to Phil, Vicki will symbolise the many other women who have lost their lives to violent men during this Sunday’s tribute match.
“We will remember all women, even locally that we have lost; that’s the importance of the day.”
Something Phil would like people, in particular men, to think about on the day, is their role is in stopping violence against women, and how they could become a courageous man.
“We admire courageous footballers, so think about what a courageous man really does in life, and how he respects the rights of women,” Phil stated.
“Men have to get over the notion that they own and control women, so I want those men to reflect on how they can be different, model men, and be together to stop this horrific violence.”
On the other hand, Phil wants women suffering at home or in relationships now to know that it is never their fault, and must speak up.
“If you’re living with an abusive man, you have to get out, and you have to seek assistance.”
“It’s never your fault that a man is violent, but we’ve had a bad narrative historically that has blamed women for violence inflicted upon them,”
“Don’t hide it from your friends, don’t hide it from your brother, or your father or a man, or other professionals. The campaign is about respecting your rights. It’s about the human rights of a woman.”
While Sunday will be a day to celebrate and remember the life of Vicki, Phil had just one last thing to say of his late sister:
“She is, and was, an inspiration to me.”
Be at Piranha Park at 1:45pm this Sunday to support the Cleary family and to get behind our boys against the Northern Blues.
Backed by the State Government, Vicki Cleary Tribute Day will be a gold coin donation.
If you have experienced or are at risk of family/domestic violence, seek assistance by calling White Ribbon Australia’s 24-hour support service on 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).
FULL VIDEO: https://youtu.be/pW-kkm_2LNQ