Senior Games: 10
THE JOVIAL GIANT OF CHELSEA
Arriving at Chelsea as a 10 year-old, Noel Hopgood commenced his association with the Chelsea Football Club as an under 15 player in 1962. This link with the club unfortunately ceased in his second year when his father moved the boys to Carrum where older brother Kevin was already playing.
Noel’s early promise as a footballer created interest from North Melbourne, St Kilda and Richmond but tragedy struck at an early age when his father was killed in a road accident. Noel was a passenger in the truck at the time and suffered severe injuries to one leg. His damaged knee never fully recovered and limited his sporting achievements considerably.
Despite these crushing set-backs as a teenager, Noel proved himself to be very strong willed, enabling him to pursue his love of life through a return to football and the mateship and social interaction that came with competitive sport. Finishing his time at Carrum, Noel played for Bonbeach for two years before resuming his association with the Chelsea Football Club as reserves coach in 1973. ’Rolls’ had come home and was ready to devote his life to the blue and white army.
After a six season ‘apprenticeship’ in the twos, Noel stepped up to take charge of the Seniors in 1979, leading the side to third place in his first season. The following year proved to be a significant one for Hoppy. Mid-way through the year, Chelsea were able to recruit former Magpie star John Greening. It was an absolute coup for the locals as the flamboyant and gifted player became an instant success story. He lifted the spirits and image of the entire club dramatically. His personality was infectious and his popularity spread throughout the club.
It was during the latter half of the year that J.G made it known that he wished to coach. The committee chose to appoint him over Noel who was, it would be fair to say, quite miffed.
Coincidently, Noel’s best mate Ronnie Stubbs was appointed as coach of the Lions for the 1981 season, so he decided to transfer his energies back to Carrum as chairman of selectors. His heart, however, remained with Chelsea as he maintained a close contact with those inside the club until 1982 when he returned to start a thirteen year stint as chairman of selectors. It was a time that provided the Gulls with seven Grand Final appearances and three flags.
Noel’s ’bench influence’ played a major part in Chelsea’s success during the eighties and nineties. His brilliant ability to read the game and counteract opposition tactics swung many games and finals Chelsea’s way.
Eventually, Noel satisfied a life-long ambition to become President of the club in 1995 and 1996. It was about this time that his involvement in other community organisations evolved. Once again he was a popular and active participant, becoming President of the local RSL Golf Club and serving on the committee for several years.
So, as we reflect on the wonderful contribution of Noel Hopgood over the years we will always remember a guy who made his mark on all of us in his own happy, jovial manner; a man possessing a desire to be among mates and a man who truly loved the Chelsea Football Club.