They Made the Brown and Gold

Bruce Stevenson, Andy Gowers, Richie Vandenberg

Each year, the Hawks Museum acknowledges three players who typified the spirit of the Brown and Gold. They are the players whom supporters believed could inspire the team to victory, could be counted to give their all no matter the odds, the players that the supporters adopted as cult figures.

However, for some players the Brown and Gold goes much deeper into their bloodstream. They want to return and as they say, ‘Give back what the Club has given them’. A shining example is Jason Dunstall. One of the greatest full forwards that the game has seen, returned to serve on the Board and is credited with laying the foundations of the highly successful Clarkson era. Dunstall played in four premierships and added another three when he served as Director of Football.

Other players returned to coach. Since the late 1950s, John Kennedy Snr, Peter O’Donohue, David Parkin, Allan Joyce, Peter Knights, Ken Judge and Peter Schwab all returned, while other players sought roles on the Club Committee, now known as the Board, Brian Kann, Leon Rice and Kelvin Moore to name a few.

In more recent times, three former players put their hand up to join the Board of Directors. Bruce Stevenson, Andrew Gowers and former captain, Richie Vandenberg. All three returned with the belief that they had the necessary skills to contribute to the current and future directions of their beloved Brown and Gold.

Current Board members & former players Bruce Stevenson, Andy Gowers and Richie Vandenberg with their tribute in They made the Brown ‘n Gold cabinet

Bruce Stevenson is a third-generation member of the Hawks. His grandfather followed the club back in the VFA days and his father Bruce was a popular and dedicated member of the Training Staff (1950-1958).

Recruited from Swinburne Technical School, Stevenson (1969-1972) played 72 games and kicked 26 goals as a big burley ruckman-cum-defender. He starred in the torrid second semi-final victory in 1971 against St Kilda. Two weeks later he repeated his efforts when the Hawks defeated St Kilda for a second time in the Grand Final. Coming from behind, the Hawks ran over a very spirited St Kilda team, in one of the toughest Grand Finals on record to win the club’s second premiership.

Stevenson’s deep feelings for Hawthorn’s future during the attempted merge debate in 1996 led him give strong support to the Scott ticket. A career move had seen Stevenson move to Launceston. He was invited by Ian Dicker to lead the formation of the Tasmanian Hawks, to assist with membership and with the development of York Park, now a real strong hold of the club. Stevenson joined the Board in 2013.

Andy Gowers (1988-1994) The son of Trevor Gowers who played 24 games for Richmond, Andrew was recruited from Xavier College. He played 89 games and kicked 54 goals. Gowers played on the wing in the 1991 Premiership and backed this up as a member of the 1992 Night Premiership team. Known for his versatility and endurance, he was capable of playing either end of the ground when required, as a handy attacking centre half-forward or as a reliable defender across the half backline. He later moved to Brisbane (1995-1999) playing a further 51 games.

Gowers joined the Board when Jason Dunstall stood down in 2014; Gower replaced him and took on his role of officiating as Director of Football. He gained rapid success, contributing to the 2015 Premiership.

Richie Vandenberg (1998-2007) Recruited from University Blues, he played 145 games, kicking 64 goals and was a member of the 1999 Night Premiership team. Starting out as tough and nuggety defender, his powers of concentration equipped him to handle set tasks. In 2002, when he moved to the midfield, his tenacious game proved to be very valuable, opening up the play and creating many opportunities for his fellow teammates. His dedication to the cause saw him embroiled in the in-famous wild brawl with archrivals, Essendon in 2004.

When Alistair Clarkson was appointed coach in 2005, to the surprise of many, he appointed Vandenberg as captain. Clarkson was impressed with Vandenberg’s dedication and determination and saw the outstanding leadership qualities he possessed. Vandenberg is credited in helping to instill the Clarkson creed that was to see enormous success.

Vandenberg was appointed to the board in 2016 and heralds the next generation to help forge the Hawks’ ongoing story.

The tribute to the three players features memorabilia from their respective personal collections. You will see Bruce Stevenson’s 1968 guernsey and his 1971 premiership trophies, Andy Gowers’ guernsey from the 1991 premiership and premiership medal and Richie Vandenberg’s 2003 guernsey and his football from 1999, when the players were required to buy their own football for training.

Peter Haby, Hawks Museum Curator

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