From the moment the Geelong Football Club was formed in 1859 the Club has been centered around people. Some of them are footballers but the whole Club is not just about the footballers, it’s about the members and it’s about the kids and it’s about the boot studder and it’s about Bob Gartland.

People are central to the Geelong Football Club and Bob Gartland now joins an esteemed list of individuals as the 2022 winner of the R.J Hickey Award, which recognises ‘Outstanding Service to Australian Football’.

Bob’s contribution to the Geelong Football Club and broader community has been significant.

A long-time supporter and member since 1972, Gartland joined Geelong’s board in 2007 and was elected as Club Vice President in 2014.

His impact both on and off-field has been fundamental through a range of roles including player welfare, welcoming new players to the Club, brokering new commercial arrangements and playing a vital role in the Kardinia Park stadium development.

Above all his many contributions to the Club, it’s Gartland’s steadfast endeavour to honour the Club’s past, and enable current and future generations to learn about and respect the Club’s rich history that has seen him personify the Kardinia Spirit for decades.

“First and foremost, I am grateful that the Geelong Football Club thinks highly enough of me and my contribution to acknowledge me in this way. I can think of another 100 people who deserve it more than I do,” Gartland said.

“When you read down through the list of the people who have won this award and to think that my name is going to be added to the bottom of the list is very humbling but very much appreciated and valued.”

For all his contributions to success, it’s Gartland’s unwavering passion for people and the community that stands out most though.

He’s always generous with his time. Whether that be having the players from outside of Victoria over for dinner on a Monday night, connecting with past players or supporting the Club in a multitude of ways. He has shared in many great experiences along the way.

“I love the Club, but I love the people more,” Gartland said.

“Because I’ve been involved at the Club at a whole range of levels my experiences have been varied but I value them all.

“There are big things I’ve experienced like walking onto the ground after the 2007 Grand Final with the rest of my colleagues and collecting the cup after 44 years, that was pretty good.”

“Finding Audrey Cope (the Club’s first female captain in 1954) was not a big thing in the story of our Club, but it was to me.

“Audrey has since passed away so finding her at that moment and at that time and being able to give the messages to our women’s team that she sent, I value that experience really highly.

“There has been big things and seemingly small things but if you put them all together, the combination of all my time at the Club across a whole host of areas is something that I value very highly in my life and that will stay with me my whole life.”

Today you’ll find Bob as passionate as ever for the Club. He now has over 140,000 Club photos and has established one the most comprehensive football image collections in existence.

He’s also heavily involved in the community and studying a post-graduate degree in cultural heritage and museum studies at Deakin University.

“I am the founding ambassador of Anam Cara House Geelong. This is my 17th year and after all these years we are about to open a new Anam Cara facility with 20 beds in conjunction with Deakin University at Waurn Ponds. This is going to change end of life care for our Geelong community, for our children and grandchildren.”

“I am also working with the Polly Farmer Foundation and what we are doing in-line with Polly’s values is working to give opportunities to Aboriginal children in Geelong for further education.”

“I’m still loving my history football work. Col Hutchinson and I still meet every Wednesday the way we have done for the last 20 years, Bill McMaster and I still talk often, and I love his company.

“My research work and storytelling hasn’t stopped within football and perhaps that’s part of the legacy I can leave. My collection is a big part of what I have done over the past 50 years.”

“I feel really privileged that the Club has allowed me to be a part of the story and to allow me to do the things that I have done, and if the things that I have done have added to the Club in a positive way I would be forever so grateful.”

Gartland will be presented with the RJ Hickey Award at the Hall of Fame dinner on 8 July this year.

R.J. Hickey Award Background

The R.J. Hickey Award is named in honour of our great past player and premiership coach and captain, Reg Hickey, whose contribution to the game of football and to the Geelong Football Club in particular, was profound over a period from 1926 – 1959.

The list of previous winners of this award represents a diverse array of service and dedication, to the game of Australian Football, both locally and across the broader football community.

Whilst this award is a Geelong Football Club award, winners of this honour will not be limited to Geelong Football Club identities. However, nominees associated with the Geelong Football Club, and the Geelong Region will be given strong consideration.

Players, coaches, administrators, media personalities, or volunteers, may be considered for this award.