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.

Next up, Gerry Tribuzio - a bonafide Royals legend, Tribuzio has served the Royals - and Triestina before the club was known as the Royals - with distinction as a player, a coach and committee member.

A Triestina native, Gerry tells the story of his time at the club.

Gerry Tribuzio has spent a lifetime with the Essendon Royals.

He forms a central cog in a band of brothers who can be seen at every senior game, home or away in the blistering cold to cheer on the club he has served with pride since 1968 and even before that as a supporter.

The Royals legend is a five-time best-and-fairest senior player, a former coach and committee member.

His earliest memories are of supporting the club as a boy, then known as Unione Sportiva Triestina.

“I came to Melbourne in 1963 and as it turned out, my uncle was the first coach here,” Tribuzio said.

“He helped to amalgamate with a team called Fiorentina to form what became Triestina and he got them all the way to state leagues and I would have been going to those games. 

“I grew up as a 12-13-year-old with this club. At that stage, I was playing my junior soccer for Juventus, but I always wanted to come back and play for my home club.

“I was born in Trieste, so this was my home.”

As a supporter, Tribuzio had fond memories of watching the seniors in those early days, long before they would become known as the Essendon Royals.

“I remember they used to have some good players in those days. I remember a keeper who played for Czechoslovakia and there was a centre-half who was actually banned by FIFA, but he was a fantastic defender and he was able to play in Australia (due to Australia’s FIFA ineligibility at the time) and then I remember that some of those same older guys would come and watch me when I was playing as they were retired.”

As a player, Tribuzio would start his career at Juventus - who these days are known as Moreland Zebras - but as born and bred Triestina himself, it didn’t take Tribuzio to find his way back to his spiritual home.

As Juventus brought in import players for the senior team, Tribuzio and a band of mates, including fellow club greats like Sergio Turkovic and Tony Hernandez, moved back to Triestina.

“The first time we came back was in 1968 when I came back with my good friend Serg,” Tribuzio recalled.

“We were in the juniors at Juventus and we’d worked our way to the reserves, but the club was bringing English players in by the truckload, so we decided we would go back and play for Triestina.

“I think we played half of the 1968 season. We went back to Juventus in 1969, but we were back by the early 70s.”

Tribuzio fondly remembers his early days back at Ormond Park as a player.

“Ormond Park has always been our spiritual home,” he said.

“We didn’t have any fancy clubrooms like now back then, but we had what we called ‘La Barraca’, which became very famous.

“It was just a little timber shed!”

His time at the club as a player was bookmarked by several promotions and relegations between the various divisions of the state league.

As a striker, Tribuzio rode those highs and lows like few others, but when he was on form, there were few who could match him - as reflected by his incredible count of best-and-fairest awards.

“When you’re playing you don’t think about those sorts of things,” he said.

“Your rewards come at the end, in terms of achievements. I enjoyed playing and I scored a lot of goals and the rewards came at the end of each year.

“There were some good years and some bad years. One year I’d score 26 goals and the next I’d score two, so it was dependent on the team.

“In terms of highlights, 76 was one of my favourite years. We started pre-season training and we looked pretty crappy.

“We didn’t have a goalkeeper, we didn’t have many what we thought were first-team players, but as the first game of the season came along one of the committee members came up and said to us he’d found the best goalkeeper in Australia.

“It happened to be this guy called George Penzo. He was a great goalkeeper, but he was also 45-years-old!

“That year, we got promoted. George made some magnificent saves and we got promoted and I scored 26 goals, and won all the league awards and it was an absolute highlight.”

While Tribuzio was banging goals in at one end of the field, his good friend Turkovic was trying to keep them out at the other end as a central defender and while Tribuzio describes the dynamic duo as “chalk and cheese”, they built an unbreakable friendship throughout their playing career.

“Serg and I grew up together. We started playing together in under-14s at Juventus,” he said.

“We went straight through to now together! He’s a defender and I’m a striker. Chalk and cheese!

“He says, ‘without me, you can’t win games,’ and I say to him, ‘without me, you can’t win games,’ but we’ve been like that 400 years now!”

After his playing days finished, Tribuzio would go on to serve as a coach, football director and as a part of the committee as well.

These days, you can catch Tribuzio at the senior games - normally not too far away from his good friend Serg.

“The club is my family,” he said.

“Both my sons, Daniel and Steve, have played for the club. Steve finished his career here and is on the committee and he loves the club.

“It’s our family. Simple as that.”

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