On a Saturday morning in winter, Francis Boyd arrives at the North Bendigo Football Club bright and early.
It’s North Bendigo’s home game, which means he’ll be busy keeping an eye on the clock for back-to-back football matches.
“I usually get up fairly early and have my breakfast and everything packed the night before, ready to go,” Mr Boyd said of his routine.
“Get up in the timekeeper at ten o’clock and set the time clocks, take the cards and fill them in.”
He drinks his coffee just before 10:00 and brings a thermos of tea and biscuits into the timekeeper.
“It’s a busy day. There isn’t much break between games or half-time,” he said.
Boyd has been taking his role as the club’s timekeeper seriously for 54 years.
Punctuality runs in the family
Before Mr. Boyd took the job, his father was the timekeeper.
“I was just starting to help him; the person who was helping him quit, so I started,” he said.
His friend and member of the North Bendigo Football Club Hall of Fame, Barry Martin, remembers when Mr Boyd started.
“As long as I’ve been with the club, the Boyds have always been there,” said Martin.
“His father Ron was the timekeeper and Francis did the third, while his father did the first and the seconds.”
Mr Martin said Mr Boyd was so committed that his only break in recent memory was when he had COVID, “his only day off in 45 years”.
When the U18, reserve and senior teams play the final in a few weeks, the pressure will be on Mr Boyd.
“We’ve got a few fights in our time… as long as Francis rings the siren at the right time, if we’re up front, we’re right,” Mr. Martin said jokingly.
From a bell to a siren
An old bell can be seen in the club rooms of the North Bendigo Football Club, as a nod to the history of the club’s timekeeper.
The 1950s bell is a testament to the club’s 75-year history, during which the club has had only two timekeepers, both Boyds.
But Mr. Boyd said how they look at the clock hadn’t changed much at all.
“We used to have a wind-up clock, now it’s just an electronic clock with batteries, that’s the only difference,” he said.
Club president Adam Kinder said volunteers like Mr Boyd keep the club going.
“Having volunteers — and essentially one family — doing probably 70 out of 75 years of timekeeping… that’s what makes clubs run.”
“Without people like that, the clubs just won’t make it.”
Mr Boyd is one of dozens of local Hall of Fame members, some of whom have their own mobile bar that they set up in the same spot in the pavilion during home games.
“Volunteers are the core of the club,” says Mr Kinder.
“They provide culture, they create atmosphere, that’s why people want to be part of the club.”
“There is no community football without people who are willing to give up their time.”
The pandemic break on community sports has been tough for Mr Boyd.
He missed his North Bendigo Football Club family.
“It was a big change,” Boyd said.
“I was a bit lost. Suddenly out of the routine, for the first time in 50 years.”
And the key to being on time?
‘Concentration. You have to concentrate.’