The Chris Gulli cup is an award for Optimism & Dedication. This award is the Buninyong Soccer Club’s most prestigious award and is only awarded to a worthy player in the Under 13 age group.

For the purpose of posterity it is important that we perpetuate this award and also provide a background story of its inception.

The following is my own account of the Chris Gulli story.

Chris Gulli came to the Buninyong Soccer Club at the beginning of the 2015 season. Chris was a 19 year old university student from Drysdale studying at the University of Ballarat. Chris enthusiastically signed up to be our Under 13 coach and was also keen to participate as a player in our newly suggested senior team.

Those of us who met and had dealings with Chris were immediately impressed with his optimistic and enthusiastic nature, his dedication to his given role and his humble and eager acceptance of advice.

Pre-season training had already begun when Chis came along to our club. As part of the hand-over of coaching responsibilities I coached alongside Chris at training for a few weeks. Chris was immediately liked and respected by the playing group. Within a few weeks Chris was effectively teaching the kids and happily exchanging banter with them. Chris turned up early for training, always had a sheet of his planning notes, (which he always asked for my opinion on) and always stayed well after training finished to have a play and a chat with whomever chose to stay.

The first game of the season for the Under 13’s was at Morshead Park, Synthetic Pitch 4. Chris was there early, had his starting eleven organised and coached his first competitive soccer game. The result was a 10-1 loss. When I approached Chis after the game and asked him what he thought of the team, he smiled, nodded his head and enthusiastically said, “Yeah, I think this is going to work.” After that comment my first thought was, ‘did you see something I didn’t see’? Then I realised that yes, he did see something I didn’t see. Chris observed all of the kids, he saw their strengths and weaknesses. He saw what positions they were playing in, he saw how they moved, he saw their structure, and he understood how to place all of those pieces of information into an effective strategy. Chris’s optimism was not a blind optimism where he thought happy thoughts will prevail. His optimism was in accepting facts and building something good from what he had.

The next weekend on a Saturday, Chris participated in a Coaching course with some of our other club members. He was extremely excited about achieving his coaching qualification. It was Chris’s dream to one day become a soccer coach.

The next day, early on Sunday morning, Chris was driving from his home in Drysdale to Coach his Under 13 team in their second game.

……..Chris didn’t make it. He was tragically killed in a car accident at Scotsburn.

Chris’s death shocked us to our core. Chris was a good and decent man. He demonstrated the qualities that we want our young players to aspire to. His personal qualities of optimism and dedication will be forever remembered at our club in the form of his perpetual cup which will be awarded annually to keep his legacy alive.

As Chris predicted, the 2015 Under 13 team had what it took to be competitive. They finished the season having beaten the top teams and only just missed out on finals. I firmly believe that had the team spent the entire season under Chris’s guidance they would have achieved even more.

Chis will be forever sorely missed but never forgotten.

Greg O’Beirne