As we look forward to our 60th Anniversary Gala Dinner at Hyatt Place Essendon Fields next month, we took the opportunity to have a chat with some of the Essendon Royals greats.

Many of our club’s legends meet on a weekly bases at the Trieste Social Club in Essendon and we rounded up a whole bunch of them to talk all about their time at the Royals for a series of videos and features on to demonstrate what this club means to so many different people in our community.

From the club’s birth in 1959, right through to the renaissance of our senior team we talk to the people who helped shape the club to what it is today.

First up, Tony Hernandez - the Royals’ favourite Spaniard who proved that despite the club’s Triestina roots, this was a club that anybody could call home…

Tony Hernandez arrived in Australia from Madrid, Spain with a rich footballing history.

With family ties to Atletico Madrid, Hernandez - like so many other migrants to Australia - brought his rich love of football with him to Melbourne.

The problem for him was that, as a Spaniard, it was hard to find an accepting football family.

Hernandez eventually found himself at Juventus (now known as Moreland Zebras) but was starved of first-team opportunities.

“If you weren’t English or Scottish and worse still if you were a Spaniard and not Italian, you had Buckley’s chance of playing,” he said.

But while Hernandez may have been starved of first-team opportunities, he met a bunch of boys in Sergio Turkovic, Gerry Tribuzio and more who would be loaned to Essendon during the 1971 season.

“In that Reserves team I met boys who I’ve been friends with ever since,” he said.

“Guys like Serg, Gerry and Mick Catalano and more, lots of them, maybe 15 players and they are all still my friends.

“Coming to Triestina, as it was called in those days, was easy, because I was coming to play with my friends.”

Over two spells with the Royals - known then as Trieste - Hernandez spent 11 years at the club between 1971 and 1983, becoming one of Essendon’s favourite sons.

“But it was more than just a soccer team, it was a family club. I looked forward to going to training every Tuesday and Thursday.

“I come from a big family in Madrid where there were 11 of us cousins and we always played soccer together and two of my uncles played for Atletico Madrid, so we had a soccer background,” Hernandez said.

“When my parents migrated to Australia, I missed my cousins, they were family, but the boys [at Essendon] became my cousins. They were my new cousins.

“We weren’t just playing soccer together, we were going out together, working part-time together, we did everything together. It was great.

“The club was an extended family to me. I left Essendon with the coach of the day, Mario, to play at Fawkner but I got injured and then I went away for a long holiday, but when I came back I just came back to Essendon.

“Whether it was called Triestina, Essendon or Royals, it’s a part of my family.”

Get your tickets to our 60th Anniversary Gala Night here: 

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