The 'Greats' behind our footy greats

Two Hawthorn FC property stewards share why their connection to the club means so much to them. 

Your average Hawthorn FC fan would pay to wash the guernseys of AFL legends like Luke Hodge or Sam Mitchell or hand out drinks to them on game day. But for longstanding club volunteers Bobby Lovegrove and Ken Freiberg, this is how they spend much of their week as the club’s property managers. 

But they’re not in it for the fame – they love what they do because it gives them a sense of purpose and is a great social outlet.

Between them, Lovegrove and Freiberg – aged 69 and 78 respectively – have racked up over half a decade at Hawthorn FC. And they’re as committed as they come, working between 5−7 days a week to make sure the players have everything they need on game day, from food and drink, to guernseys and medical equipment. 

“We travel to all the games and carry 900kg of gear with us each week. My mother actually helps with the washing [of players jumpers],” says Freiberg who was recruited to the role 15 years ago. At the time, he was secretary of the club’s past players association.

Why volunteer?

The work isn’t easy but Lovegrove says he didn’t think twice when the opportunity knocked to get involved at the club. 

“I took early retirement and joined Hawthorn after asking them if they needed volunteers. It’s great to be able to give something back to the club for all the enjoyment they’ve given me all my life.” 

Over their time at Hawthorn FC, Lovegrove and Freiberg have made countless friends and share a particularly close bond with the coaches and players. 

“I live with my 99-year-old mother, Alma, down at Rye [in Victoria] and sometimes the players drop in to say hi. Sam Mitchell and his family came by for a cuppa last weekend,” says Freiberg.

Like most roles at a footy club, the property steward position is physically demanding and the boys stay active because they’re always on go. But the part that their involvement with the club plays in boosting their overall wellness can’t be understated. 

“Volunteering gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. I’ve always been active, so if I wasn’t volunteering there [Hawthorn FC], I’d be doing it elsewhere,” says Lovegrove. Freiberg suggests he’d be more at a loss: “I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t at Hawthorn. I’d probably be watching a lot of telly!”

“Volunteering gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning."

Community connectedness

Outside their work at the club, Lovegrove and Freiberg somehow manage to fit in other activities. They both have family who they see regularly – Freiberg has four boys and Lovegrove has five kids and four grandchildren. Freiberg plays table tennis once a week and is a member of Hawthorn FC’s punters and golf clubs. 

Not everyone is lucky enough to be surrounded by family as they age. Getting involved in your community – whether or not in the form of volunteering – can be a great energy booster if you’re stuck in a rut or perhaps don’t socialise as much as you’d like to. 

“It’s a big step going from the workforce to being retired,” says Lovegrove. “But people won’t help you if you don’t help yourself. Once you make the effort to get involved in what’s going on around you, it enhances your life. It makes you feel like you’re making a difference.” 

“It’s important to stay active. If you’re interested in volunteering or joining a group, get in touch with your local council or senior citizens club to find out what’s on offer,” Freiberg suggests.

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