303. Robert Groenewegen

303. Robert GroenewegenOverall Contribution Inductee

Footscray/Glenorchy/North Launceston/Aurora Stadium, Forward/Defender/Media/Administrator, 1988-2016

79 games, 29 goals, Footscray, 1978-87
15 games, Glenorchy, 1988
62 games, North Launceston, 1990-96
Glenorchy captain-coach, 1988
North Launceston captain, 1991-92
North Launceston TFL premiership, 1995
North Launceston reserves captain, 1994-95
North Launceston reserves coach, 1995-96
North Launceston reserves Best and Fairest, 1994
York Park/Aurora Stadium Venue Manager, 2001-16
Launceston Football Club Board Advisor, 2008-12
Launceston assistant coach, 2013-16
Football writer, The Examiner, 1997-2003
ABC Radio commentator, 1998-2006
Football Tasmania/AFL Tasmania Board Member, 2001-06

Robert Groenewegen first came to Tasmania after a serviceable VFL career with Footscray, during which time he played 79 games in 10 years and was a member of the Bulldogs’ 1985 preliminary final team against Hawthorn. Appointed captain-coach of Glenorchy in 1988, Groenewegen took the Magpies to the grand final, where they were defeated by Devonport in one of Tasmanian football’s most spiteful encounters. A one-season return to Victoria to play for Williamstown was followed by a permanent move to Tasmania in 1990 – this time to North Launceston – and it was here that Groenewegen would end his career, playing 62 games in six seasons with the Bombers, including as a member of the 1995 Statewide League premiership side.

‘Wagon’ played mostly as a ruckman or key forward, and though he was able to use his 193cm height to great effect around the ground his athleticism was marred by a series of major injuries over his career, most notably a knee reconstruction in 1981 that robbed him of much of his youthful spring. After his on-field career ended at the end of 1996 Groenewegen remained in Launceston, with his career as a town planner leading to a role as the manager of the York Park and Inveresk Precinct, including Aurora Stadium. Under Groenewegen’s watch the ground underwent a series of redevelopments to bring it up to AFL standard, resulting in Hawthorn and St. Kilda playing over 50 matches at the venue since the turn of the millennium, an arrangement he also helped engineer as a member of the Football Tasmania (later AFL Tasmania) board.

Groenewegen has likewise contributed to football in the state through a number of media roles, including writing for The Examiner for a number of years and serving as a correspondent/commentator for NTFL football with ABC Local Radio. Always a jovial character, Groenewegen had a well-known penchant for larrikinism in his playing days, the most infamous example occurring on a flight between Fiji and Hawaii in 1985, when – allegedly –  ‘Captain Groenewegen’ informed economy class that “we’re about to go down” after commandeering the plane’s intercom system. As his Footscray teammate and close friend Doug Hawkins puts it, “if you did it now, you’d be shot by an Air Marshall and do 25 years in the slammer!”