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My Tribute to ‘One of a Kind’

03 Oct My Tribute to ‘One of a Kind’

When a person has such a public life, we all feel connected to them based on what we watch them do and I am sure many people feel like they know Robert Flower the footballer.

To me, I am privileged to know him personally….simply as Rob.

I was introduced to Rob when he employed me at his sports store at Knox City (Sportsco) in Melbourne’s east. It was January 1989 and I was 1 month shy of 18 years of age. Loving football, I was in awe of Rob and made an assumption he wanted to talk about footy. As much as I tried, I struggled to strike up a conversation with him and truly thought he didn’t like me. I soon found out, it wasn’t me, it was the topic.

Rob didn’t want to talk about himself or the very topic that had consumed his life until then; he wanted to be seen as a normal person and was more interested in me, my life.

One month into my employment, he had met my parents, welcomed my friends when they dropped into ‘the shop’ (as we called it) and the night before my 18th birthday, organised with my friends for me to have a day off.

This was the start of what would become a very special and private bond over the next 25 years.

Rob and I quickly formed a connection; our conversations were based around laughing, having strong personal values, the importance of family, relationships, hard work and enjoying life. Don’t get me wrong, there were some tough times but we supported each other through them – many of these are personal and why his loss has really hit me hard.

I worked with Sheree, met his young children, Brad and Danielle, was close by when Emily and Mikala were born, he came to my 18th, my 21st, encouraged and guided me through the purchase of my first house when I was 24, he was the first person I went to when I got engaged and he was there at my wedding. He calmed my dad when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and gave my brother an opportunity when he was looking for a career change. I am also indebted to Rob and Sheree for something unbelievably selfless they did for my parents.

On a professional level, Rob was instrumental in me carving out a career at Sportsco over 12 ½ years and after leaving Sportsco, at Rob’s request, I took up a role at a Training Organisation where we continued to work together for the next 8 years. Here I was, 38 years of age and Rob had been there with me and for me all the way.

I remember it like yesterday – the day he came into my office to tell me he was leaving the Training Organisation. I was really excited for his next business venture but it was a sad day; an end of an era so to speak which we both recognised. From that day, I have always dreamt of working together again and until yesterday, a small part of me still thought it would happen.

I also recall earlier this year. I hadn’t spoken to Rob for a few months which did happen over recent years but on this particular day, I felt a real need to call him and I did. He told me he had just found out he had to have an operation on his heart. He was obviously worried so we talked through it and the conversation ended in a happy mood. I don’t know why I felt the need to call that day – something inside me just knew.

We stayed in contact over recent months but unfortunately we didn’t get to catch up face to face. We had verbally agreed to catch up for lunch in Clarendon Street, South Melbourne (near my work) and I left a message two weeks ago to organise it. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back from Rob.

Now he has gone and I am struggling, big time.

Rob, you have had such a profound influence and impact on my life and whilst I didn’t tell you this enough, I am glad I was able to share my gratitude at different times. I could never explain to anyone all the individual things you did or why you felt I deserved them but I will never forget them and have some awesome memories which will stay with me always.

Mate, I am going to miss you so much. You are one of a kind.

Craig Winter (Crackers)

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