Hakoah’s farewell to Hall St

October 30, 2009 by Henry Benjamin
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More than 300 members and former football players reminisced over the history of Sydney’s Hakoah Club as it prepares to shut its doors for good in its current Bondi location.Club president Phil Filler told J-Wire: “I left very late and there were still about thirty of our former players chatting away.”

Hakoah was formed as the social arm of a soccer club and has been in its current premises for over 30 years. Plans for a new site are now in final stages of negotiation but the Club remains tight-lipped as to where the new premises will be be.

Frank Lowy talks to Hakoah supporters

Frank Lowy talks to Hakoah supporters

The gathering heard speeches from the four men who have served as President of the club during its Hall St days. Frank Lowy, who was president for a staggering 18 years, said that the club was in his heart and that he would always be available to its Board at any time if help was needed. He paid special tribute to men no longer with us who had played enormous roles in the club’s success including Andrew Lederer andSam Fiszman and spent time reflecting on the club’s successes on the football field. Former presidents Andrew Kemeny and Bernie Jacoby also made speeches highlighting their time at the helm.

In his address, current president Phil Filler outlined the current situation facing the club and the plans for the future. He told J-Wire: “Over 2000 members have renewed their membership even though we haver nowhere to go as I speak.”

As special tribute was made to the late Robert Sardy who managed the club and was fondly known as “Mr Hakoah”. Club identities told their favourite stories of their time at Hakoah with caterer

A reflective moment for Frank Lowy                     p.Henry Benjamin

A reflective moment for Frank Lowy photos: Henry Benjamin

Tibby Genat getting laughs for his tale of a customer who sent back a fish dish because “it tasted like fish”. He gave her instead a chicken schnitztel on the pretext that it was still fish. “That’s much better”, the diner said. “A nice piece of fish and no fish taste.”

Phil Filler told J-Wire that former president Lowy showed concern when he heard that the club was auctioning off fittings and fixtures. “What about the memorabilia?” he asked. But Filler put his mind at ease by telling him that the club’s memory bank would stay firmly put and waas not for sale.

Filler’s speech is printed in full:

There can continue to be many stories about these premises and the history of Hakoah and I am certainly not short of them.

I could tell you of the days when I went with my father to Wentworth Park to cheer on my heroes – and so many of them are here tonight – Ray Baartz, Johnny Watkiss, Alan Marnoch, Peter Fuzes, Robbie Fekete, Murray Barnes, Dennis Yaager and the list can go on.

I can talk about religiously coming here on Friday nights for the weekly disco whilst I was in my 20’s.

It seems like only yesterday that I performed “The Fully Monty” at a school fundraiser upstairs in what was then known as the King David Room.

And in more recent times there have been some great people and experiences on the Board.

However what I really need to tell you tonight is a little bit about what lays ahead.

The past 2 years have not been easy for the Board as we strive to find the solution to create an ongoing vibrancy and relevance.

Phil Filler    Photo: Henry Benjamin

Phil Filler Photo: Henry Benjamin

Having completed the hard decision to sell these premises just over 2 years ago, we now find ourselves in the envious but highly responsible position of trying to reap the benefits of the legacy that has been provided to us.

As most of you would be aware, considerable time and effort was put into our endeavours to secure the White City site. I won’t go into the reasons for this not having been achieved, however I will outline the concept that we believe would have created a new vibrancy and relevance.

Picture a modern clubhouse with an appealing and grandiose entrance. Surrounding the building are lush gardens, tennis courts, swimming pool, lawn bowls greens and an outdoor amphi-theatre. Additional outdoor features include cricket nets and football fields as well as a multi-purpose hall that can facilitate sports such as basketball, futsal, volleyball and the like. On the ground floor of the main clubhouse are change-rooms, pro-shop, gymnasium and kiosk leading to a viewing area that services the outdoor recreational facilities. Go up the escalator to the first floor where you will find a spacious lounge area, fine dining, bar and functional splinter-rooms. The floor has balconies that allow one to sit and take in the ambiance of the outdoor activity as well as the vista to the harbour. Go up another floor and find offices being used by various members of the community. There would of course be extensive on-site parking facilities.

This is a dream – a true community centre in the shape of a country club. This is what we were so close to creating and this is what we are now striving for. By selling these premises, we have protected our capital and opportunities such as this can seriously be examined. It may take time, but we need to be extremely vigilant in what we do so as to ensure its usefulness as well as its ability to be self-sustaining.

I can confirm that we are currently involved in negotiations for a clubhouse that will contain a number, but not all, of these features. Should our negotiations be successful, then I will reveal the location as soon as possible.

I believe it to be particularly relevant to speak about the take-up of memberships. As you would be aware, membership renewals are due by 31 October. Renewal forms were sent out about 4 weeks ago and I find it staggering that over 2,000 members have decided to renew notwithstanding that we have been unable to advise of new premises. And the number of members upgrading to 3-year memberships has been well above the norm. This is a clear signal that there is a need, there is a desire and the Directors do need to fulfil the goal of finding new premises.

However, bearing in mind that we will not be in a position to provide a clubhouse immediately after 4 November, the Board have resolved and I am please to announce that we will be doing what we think is the “right thing to do”. Every member will have their membership extended by a year. So, if your membership is due to expire on 31 October 2009, it now will not lapse until 31 October 2010. And if you have already renewed until 31 October 2010, then membership will be extended until 31 October 2011.

As far as our physical presence is concerned, we will continue to maintain an office at the front of this building. The Toga Group have been kind enough and we have accepted their offer to allow us to occupy the shopfront office that most of you will recall was once upon a time a travel agency as well as once upon a time a football shirt retail outlet.

On Wednesday 11 November a large auction will be conducted on-site where a lot of the fixtures and fittings of the club will be sold. So if you are looking for a plasma or some chairs or tables or other such shmontza 11 November is the date.

We intend to keep members up-to-date with what is happening through regular emails. Whilst we have an extremely large database of email addresses, there are many of you who currently don’t receive our weekly emails. The best way to keep informed is to provide us with your email address. So either see Pam Lewin tonight or in the office any time, or simply drop us an email at myclub@hakoah.com.au and ask us to put you on the newsletter database.

We also intend having an active social committee that will organise events from time to time. These events may be a movie night, a picnic day, a boat cruise or other such event. Once again, the best way to know about such events is to provide us with your email address.

Finally, and very importantly, is Hakoah’s association with the sport of football. I’m sure that a lot of the topic of conversation around the room tonight has centred and will continue to centre on the sport of football. We have probably the proudest tradition of any football club in the country. This pride should never diminish and Hakoah must and will continue to play its ongoing role in football. To that effect and only 2 years ago, teams under the brand “Hakoah” were admitted into the Youth Development League of the NSW Football Association. Children from Under 13’s, to Under 14’s, Under 15’s, Under 16’s and Under 18’s are now all playing at a very high level and this level will only improve. These teams integrate into the senior Hakoah State League teams who play in the 2nd Division of State League. In due course, with improved coaching as well as enhanced facilities, these boys’ futures will flourish and we will beam with pride as the name and traditions of Hakoah continue.

The Club will close on November 4.

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