There will be a lot of laughs shared - and maybe even a tear or two shed - when the Illawarra sporting community gathers to toast Fairy Meadow United Football Club next month.
Past players, coaches, members and officials will gather at the Fraternity Club on November 4 to celebrate Fairy Meadow FC's 60th anniversary. Organisers had originally planned to hold the celebrations in 2021, however, it was delayed due to COVID-19.
It's been a rollercoaster six-decade journey since the Fairy Meadow club - then called Inter United - was formed in 1961 by a group of friends who wanted to play in an amateur competition against pub and church teams.
Three years later, the club entered the Illawarra District Soccer Association's second division and changed to the Fairy Meadow United name. It didn't take long for the club to taste success, winning the league in 1970 to gain promotion to the top flight.
It would kick-start a golden era for the club, which included winning the 1977 championship, and then the championship double in both 1979 and 1980. With Lord Mayor Frank Arkell pushing their campaign, United was promoted to the State League at the end of 1980.
Fairy Meadow won the second division grand final in their inaugural two seasons, but couldn't get promoted to first grade.
That would change in 1984.
It all came down to the final game of that season when they met rivals Wollongong Macedonia in a match that would decide the league champions and who gained promotion to the top division. In front of more than 3000 supporters at PCYC, Meadow scored in the dying minutes to secure a 3-2 victory.
The following year, United finished the season in second place and were just one point away from being promoted to the National Soccer League. It would prove to be the high point in Fairy Meadow's period, with the side relegated back to second division by the end of 1986.
Fairy Meadow finished second in the league championship in 1987 and lost the grand final, which also signalled the departure of long-time captain Mick White. He had joined the club as a teenager in 1974, but was forced to leave due to work commitments in Sydney.
The club would fold soon after.
"I was there for the whole journey. We went from being a minuscule club in the district all the way to a State League grand final at Marconi Stadium, it was unbelievable," White told the Mercury.
"It was an honour (to be captain). But the club was more than just a club to me - it was a family. We all loved each other, and it was one hell of a ride. And we were so successful. We won four grand finals in a row - six in all - and I think we played in seven. It was brilliant.
"But if I had known that the club would have folded two years after that, I wouldn't have left. I was devastated because, when I did leave, I always thought that I would come back when things settled down. But it didn't eventuate."
However, Fairy Meadow finally returned to the field in 2023, with the club taking part in Football South Coast's Community League.
While it's a far cry from their State League glory days, it's a pleasing sign for White, who can't wait to catch up with some old faces at November's reunion.
"It's going to be great. Although I probably won't recognise half of them - and they probably won't recognise me either because it's been a few years," the former Fairy Meadow skipper said with a laugh.
"But I'm sure we will get along famously on the night, I'm really looking forward to it."
John Krajnovic, who was Fairy Meadow's top-grade goalkeeper during the 1980s, is also keen for next month's catch-up.
"Back in the day, the crowds were big and it was a great era to be involved (with the club)," he said.
"I'm really looking forward to catching up with lots of old teammates, supporters and coaches. A lot of people were involved in this club, I hope they turn up and we can reminiscence about some great years."
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