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Melbourne Football Club

Proud Paul rewarded with key honour

It’s fantastic and very humbling. I’m very honoured to be awarded life membership of the oldest, most professional sporting football club in the world
Paul Hopgood

PAUL Hopgood doesn’t take his life membership induction lightly.

The 113-game player was genuinely shocked, but over the moon when he was told of his honour, and said it was a responsibility he would cherish always.

“It’s fantastic and very humbling. I’m very honoured to be awarded life membership of the oldest, most professional sporting football club in the world,” he told  

“I’ve been around the place for a long time and you never aim for these achievements, but it’s great to be rewarded, knowing that you’ve put in a bit of service along the way – both on and off the field for a long period of time.

“It’s all about all of us digging in and doing the best we can to support the leadership of the footy club and where it’s going … it’s great to see we’re heading in the right direction at the moment.

“We ultimately want to get what our little mate [and former Melbourne player] Luke Beveridge has got to at the Bulldogs a couple of years ago. It’d be great for this footy club to achieve something like that in the next short period of time.”

Hopgood, who played seniors for Melbourne from 1993-2000, was first involved with Melbourne as a 14-year-old, when he was coming through the junior development programs.

He played state football for Victoria in the under 15s and then signed with the Melbourne under 19s in 1989.

In 1990, he played in Melbourne’s under-19 Grand Final loss against North Melbourne with the likes of David Neitz and David Schwarz featuring in the match.

From there, it was onto the senior list, after the under 19s disbanded at the end of the 1991 season.

“The footy club had the opportunity to put three players onto the senior list, who they thought they could keep, once the zones were taken away, and it was myself, David Schwarz and David Neitz, who were the last three to come through the under 19s,” Hopgood said.

“I think Neita was 14, I was 15 and Schwarta was 16 at the time when we first joined Melbourne in the under 19s, so we have enjoyed a long friendship since those days.”

Hopgood said the 1994 Melbourne side, which reached a preliminary final against eventual premier West Coast, was the finest side he played in.

“1994 was the best team that I’ve played in by far. The forward line we had and the talent that we had – we probably didn’t finish high enough on the ladder to make a big impact in the final,” he said.

“We finished seventh on the ladder that year, but came from nowhere and played in a prelim final playing West Coast over there, but West Coast went on and won the Grand Final, after giving us a bit of a touch up.

“I think any other side, we would’ve beaten pretty convincingly – we were on a pretty good roll.”

Hopgood, who was a member of the club’s 150 Heroes announced in 2008, said he gave his all for the red and blue.

“There’s no doubt I was an average player who got the best out of himself. I was very competitive and always wanted to be part of the game, and be involved any way I could,” he said.

“I was never going to win the best and fairest or All Australians. I like playing my role and being part of that team success as well.

“To be part of the 150 Heroes and now life membership – it’s a very small bunch of people that are in those categories. It’s very, very humbling.”

Hopgood, who played on Brownlow Medal winners Shane Crawford, Paul Kelly, Robert Harvey in consecutive weeks, during his career, said he was a “reasonably smart footballer who knew what his ability was”.

And whether it’s been mentoring co-captain Nathan Jones, assisting former VFL aligned side Sandringham, helping with coterie groups, past player functions or coaching the annual corporate football match on MCG with Rod Grinter, Hopgood has continued to be involved with Melbourne.

And he said it was something he always wanted to do.

“The footy club has given me the opportunity to do many things – they’ve had a huge influence on my life,” he said.

“[The club has] been able to stamp me in a way that has helped me progress and build networks … and [I’ve got] great friends from the game.

“As a past player, you have a responsibility to give something back to the club.”