Champion for sport remembered

President Colin Riddiford, second left, with councillor and club life member Angela Long, Neb Delibasic and football club vice-president Steve Gillies at an Easter family day at the club in 2018. 178768_06 Picture: ROB CAREW

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Colin Riddiford shunned the limelight, but the sports stalwart’s name is expected to be emblazoned in lasting tribute at his “second home” at Lois Twohig Reserve.

Mr Riddiford, 80, a life member of North Dandenong Cricket Club and North Dandenong Junior Football Club, died after recent illness on 3 September.

He was known both for his direct manner and his giving heart – as well as decades of service to sport.

Though deserving, he’d declined the title of club legend as well as the honour of a City of Greater Dandenong Living Treasure.

He was however awarded an Australian Sports Medal for his service for community sport.

Former sports editor at the Journal, Phil McLeod, said Mr Riddiford was the “father” of both the cricket and football clubs, a “rough diamond” and passionate advocate.

“Once you got know him he was a real softie, had a heart of gold.

“He would do anything to help anyone in trouble. He was a doer in everything he did.”

Mr Riddiford took on the presidency of the now-defunct Dandenong Football Club in its final years “when no one else would do the job”, Mr McLeod said.

“He tried desperately to save the club but to no avail.”

A founding member of the NDJFC in 1971, he was running the club nearly half-a-century later as president. He’d also served as a league tribunal chairman.

In recent years, Mr Riddiford actively tried to arrest the decline of Aussie Rules junior participation in the district that produced AFL players such as Craig Lambert, Chad Morrison and Tim McGrath.

He was one of very few regulars who watched Greater Dandenong council meetings, often keeping councillors and council officers accountable.

Less well known was Mr Riddiford’s passion for his hundreds of parrots and birds in his home aviary.

Community leaders say it’s fitting for his name to be enshrined at Lois Twohig Reserve – such as the clubrooms or the new digital scoreboard.

One of them is Greater Dandenong ex-councillor John Kelly, who knew Mr Riddiford for more than 60 years.

“He wasn’t one for accolades. But there’s not too many people who are involved in so many things and with incredible passion.”

Mr Riddiford and the clubs had raised the money to build the Lois Twohig clubrooms in the 1970s – without putting out their hand for council money.

“He tried so many things to keep the club and the facility (at Lois Twohig Reserve) running,” Cr Kelly said of Mr Riddiford.

“He was passionate about that facility up there.”

Unbeknown to Cr Kelly, Mr Riddiford had instigated a storyboard honouring Cr Kelly’s grandparents James and Irene whose farm became home of Lois Twohig Reserve.

The City of Greater Dandenong project was unveiled by Cr Kelly and his father Jack in 2015.

Mayor Jim Memeti agreed that Mr Riddiford’s name should be recognised at the reserve.

“We’ll consult with the clubs and the family first – but I’d be very supportive.

“Over the years, he had a very good rapport with all councillors and council officers.

“He did a lot for community members and was always active in trying to improve people’s lives.”

In a Facebook tribute from the cricket club, he was said to have tackled life “full on and with no backward steps”.

“He may have had a prickly persona but underneath was a heart that pumped maroon and black.

“This was his badge of honour. He put the benefit of North Dandy above all else, and for this we are truly grateful.”

The club plans to celebrate Mr Riddiford’s life at the clubrooms.

Mr Riddiford is survived by wife Lorraine and sons Mark and Darren.


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