There are a few things that Nerimbera Magpies groundsman Sterling McQuire loves about his boyhood football club in Rockhampton.
He loves the fact that Nerimbera has had the same name since the club was founded more than a century ago, in 1910.
He loves the fact that the club has survived and thrived through two World Wars and the Great Depression and, most recently, Cyclone Marcia.
And he loves the club’s home ground Pilbeam Park, which is nestled in a water course between the Fitzroy River and a mountain known by his people as Nurrim.
In fact, the name Nerimbera comes from the Darumbal Aboriginal word for “people of the mountain.”
“I’m a local Darumbal descendent and that was an area where Darumbal people would have met, so I’ve always felt something special about that place,” said McQuire.
“There’s a bit of history about that place. I spent all my childhood there. It feels like home for me. No-one wants to be a groundsman, really, so you’ve got to love where you work. I always get a sense of satisfaction out of it.”
McQuire is a proud Aboriginal and South Sea Islander man, connected to the Darumbal people of Central Queensland and the island of Tanna in Vanuatu.
A former player and coach, he possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Rockhampton and its football history.
“I come from a suburb of Rocky called Koongal,” said McQuire.
“As kids we would play rugby league on Fridays at the Lakes Creek State School in Koongal and on Saturdays we would all play soccer at Nerimbera.
“Back then, there wasn’t many cars so we never went all over the place like now. We didn’t even go out of our street, most of us. There was no going from suburb to suburb.
“It was real communities back then. You went to the school in your area and you played sport at whatever club was in your area.
“I’m the last of those Koongal kids left at Nerimbera, all the others have moved away or are not involved anymore. That’s life, you know.”
When Cyclone Marcia hit Rockhampton in 2015, Nerimbera’s old clubhouse had its roof torn off and the field was rendered unplayable.
McQuire was one of many local volunteers who worked to get the club back on its feet.
In 2016, the new clubhouse was opened with a function room, commercial kitchen and hall, and the Sterling McQuire Stand was named in his honour.
“There were plenty of people involved in Nerimbera long before I was,” said McQuire.
“I think back to all those people who have probably done a lot more than what I have done. I’ve only been part of the club and watched things happen.”
Now in his 60s, McQuire has seen many people and clubs come and go from Rockhampton.
In 1979, he played for the Rockhampton side that participated in the inaugural season of the old Queensland State League.
He remembers the current chairman of Football Australia, James Johnson, who grew up playing for neighbouring club Berserker Bears.
Nerimbera now field senior men’s and women’s sides in the CQ Premier League against teams from Yeppoon and Gladstone.
McQuire is happy that his club remains a meeting place for people of all backgrounds and nationalities.
“We’ve had all sorts of people play here including Aboriginal, South Sea Islander, English, Irish. Now we have Brazilians and people from the Middle East,” he said.
“And that’s one great thing about the place – it doesn’t matter who you are, you come down, have a go and you’re in. That’s what I think is really good about Nerimbera.
“One time we had a team in our third division that was full of Vietnamese meat workers. That’s what soccer is all about.
“I tell the young ones to learn the game and you will go into the world not having to learn to speak their language, because you speak with your ball.
“Your ball becomes your form of communication, and you can go anywhere in the world.”
To find out more about Football Queensland History, click here.