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Where are they now? Tregenza

Simon Tregenza of the Crows on the field during the 1995 round 10 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Adelaide Crows at Kardinia Park.
Simon Tregenza of the Crows on the field during the 1995 round 10 AFL match between the Geelong Cats and the Adelaide Crows at Kardinia Park.
In one of Adelaide’s premiership years, I had to play SANFL the day after the Grand Final. I remember that night lying in bed trying to sleep while all the car horns were beeping. The city was going nuts, but I was trying to sleep and prepare for a game the next day.
Simon Tregenza

In this instalment of ‘Where are They Now?’ we catch up with dashing wingman Simon Tregenza.

A Life Member and part of the Adelaide Football Club’s Team of the Century (1991-2000), Tregenza played 106 AFL games in a career curtailed by injury.

He missed out on both the 1997 and 1998 premierships, but achieved the ultimate team success four times at SANFL level and was a two-time Magarey Medal runner-up.

Tregenza was born in Penola, 388 kilometres southeast of Adelaide in one of South Australia's renowned wine growing regions. When Simon was young, his family relocated to Port Lincoln where he started his career with the Wayback Football Club as a seven-year-old …

“My Dad played footy for Penola and Waybacks in Port Lincoln and my mum always played netball, so I had a very ‘country’ upbringing. I’d play footy on Saturday mornings and then go and watch my Dad play for the local senior team. Dad also played a bit of cricket, so I used to follow him around and play cricket in the summer as well.”

A few years later, the family moved to Adelaide. Tregenza enrolled at the famous football breeding ground, Sacred Heart College, where he played with future teammate Matthew Liptak. The skilful wingman, who was living around the corner from the Bay Oval, also progressed through the junior ranks at Glenelg and met a few more future Crows …

“The set-up was that we always played a game or trained on a Sunday morning. At that stage, the senior Glenelg footballers would come out and help coach the juniors. We had the likes of Tony McGuinness, Chris McDermott and Stephen Kernahan coaching us. As kids, we just loved it.

“We were probably a bit young to understand at the time, but most Sundays they were probably recovering from a late Saturday night! We just thought they were a bit weary from the game, but there might’ve been a bit more to it when they rocked up with their iced coffees and sunglasses on.”

After two years in the Under-15s at Glenelg, where he played alongside Crows premiership defender Rod Jameson, the talented teenager moved to the Port Magpies …

“I actually grew up as a Norwood supporter and, as a family, we’d always go and watch the Redlegs. At that stage, every SANFL club was allowed to recruit a couple of players out of their zone. I wanted to go to Norwood, but they were pretty much already committed to other players and I couldn’t get there. I’d had a little bit to do with the Port Magpies because Port Lincoln was in their zone.

“There was certainly no money or incentives or anything like that. Russell Ebert was the league coach and he came out and had a chat to my family. My parents were impressed and I was happy, so I went to Port. It was just the decision we made at the time. I didn’t think too much about it, but in hindsight it worked out quite well for me.”

In 1987 and at only 16 years of age, Tregenza was ‘drafted’ by Footscray but wasn’t compelled to join the VFL club and remained in South Australia …

“It was certainly a different set-up to the current draft system. I played in an Under-15 State Carnival in 1987 and had a good carnival. On the back of that, Footscray drafted me. I had a bit to do with their recruiting guy. He came out to watch me play, and met my Mum and Dad. The offer was always open, but I think Footscray understood that I was always going to stay at home a few more years before I thought about moving over and playing in the VFL/AFL.

“By the time I was ready the moratorium had run out, so I could’ve gone to any club. I had talks with a few clubs, but when the Crows came about it was a pretty easy decision to stay in Adelaide. It was very fortunate timing for me. In 1990, if the Crows hadn’t come about I would’ve gone interstate to play AFL, so I was extremely lucky the Adelaide Football Club was formed when it was.”

Tregenza’s move to the Port Magpies paid dividends almost immediately. He made his league debut in 1988, and was involved in back-to-back premierships in 1989 and 1990. Tregenza also experienced individual success, finishing runner-up in the Magarey Medal in both years …

“It was a bit surreal. I played a couple of league games in ‘88’ and then played in a flag with the Reserves, while the league team won the premiership too. I think the club was on a bit of a high from winning in ‘88’, and then coming into the senior team in 1989-90, I probably didn’t realise what losing was about. I was just lucky to be part of a strong and winning culture. We didn’t lose too many games, won a couple of flags and from that some great mateships and memories were formed. I was very lucky to be part of the club in a strong point of its history.”

Tregenza’s ties to Footscray ended in October, 1990, and he agreed to join the Crows soon after …

“I think I might’ve been the first player to officially sign a contract with the Adelaide Football Club. On the day I signed, Andrew and Darren Jarman had verbally committed but it was more of a handshake agreement and, obviously, Darren didn’t end up going through with it.

“I got to stay at home in Adelaide with family and friends and be part of the Crows from the beginning, so it was a pretty easy decision for me.”

The 20-year-old affectionately known as ‘Trigger’ was the youngest Crow on the field when Adelaide played its first AFL game against Hawthorn at Footy Park in 1991. He was also the first Crow to earn a kick in the AFL …

“It comes up occasionally. I actually saw that question, ‘Who was the first Crow to get a kick in the AFL?’ under a West End beer bottle cap one day, so I kept it. If you’ve made a beer bottle cap, you’re doing well – so I’m pretty happy with that!”

Tregenza quickly established himself as an influential player at AFL level, but soft tissue injuries prevented him from playing more in his first two seasons …

“I had a lot of hamstring injuries. I was an outside, running type of player and relied a lot of pace. I was always very inflexible and could never even touch my toes. In my first couple of years with the Port Magpies, I never missed a game but I think the rigours of AFL footy took their toll.

“The first time I ever did my hamstring was actually in a State of Origin game in 1991. Unfortunately, it was the first of many hamstring injuries in my career. Obviously, I got through a fair few more games but it was just a constant battle. I tried everything. Graham Cornes put us onto a Taekwondo instructor and we did that for a while. I saw every physio and chiro there was and did my own stretching routines at home. I certainly put a lot of time into it. I just think it was my body make-up.”

Tregenza got on top of his injury issues in 1993, playing 20 home-and-away matches and three finals, including the heartbreaking Preliminary Final loss to Essendon …

“If you speak to anyone in the team that day, it was the one that got away. Even though I was on the list, I didn’t get to play in the winning Grand Finals in 1997 and 1998, so for me and a few other players the ‘93’ Preliminary Final was the missed opportunity.

“It was a great experience to play three weeks of the finals series, including our first-ever finals win over Hawthorn. It was probably the only year I played every game without getting injured, so from that point of view it was enjoyable also. It was just disappointing the season ended the way it did.”

He enjoyed strong seasons again in 1995 and 1995, finishing third in the best and fairest in ‘95’. However, disaster struck in the opening round of the 1996 season …

“I did my knee in the last five or 10 minutes of the opening round of the season. I came off the ground but I’d got a bit of a knock at the same time, so I didn’t realise the extent of the injury. I knew I’d done something to it because I couldn’t turn properly.

“I didn’t do much at training in the next few days and then had a run around on the Thursday night before the next game and thought, ‘I’ll be right’. I played against Fitzroy the next week and managed to play out the whole game, but it just didn’t feel right. I didn’t play very well and got a bit of a bake from the coach afterwards! I had an arthroscopy during the week and it showed I’d done my ACL.”

Tregenza returned in Round Three of 1997, but played only 10 games and none after Round 12, missing out on the Club’s maiden Grand Final success. The 1998 season panned out in similar fashion for the luckless Crow …

“In both years, I got injured about two-thirds of the way through the season. I think it was a hamstring in ‘97’ and then a calf in ‘98’. Both years, I came back late and was available during the finals, but couldn’t squeeze back into the Crows side and played out both years in the SANFL. It was disappointing because I never really got dropped from the team at any stage. It was more just that when I got injured towards the end of my career, I just found it harder to find my way back in.”

Tregenza was one of a number of regular players, including his junior teammate Matthew Liptak and Hall of Famer Tony Modra, who missed out on both flags …

“No doubt, it was tough at the time. Having the Magpies still playing in the SANFL and being involved with them helped a lot. I was able to focus on that and still contribute. In one of Adelaide’s premiership years, I had to play SANFL the day after the Grand Final. I remember that night lying in bed trying to sleep while all the car horns were beeping. The city was going nuts, but I was trying to sleep and prepare for a game the next day.

“At the time, I found it hard but looking back I certainly feel proud to have been part of the list and the team in those years. It was great for the Club. I played in premierships with the Maggies in 1998 and 1999 as well, so I was lucky enough to win four flags. Even after that, I went back to Sacred Heart Old Collegians (SHOC) to coach and play and won a flag with my mates there. 

"It was disappointing not to win an AFL flag, but at least I had some team success along the way.”

Tregenza’s AFL career came to an end in 1999. He was made Life Member of the Adelaide Football Club the same year, despite not fulfilling the usual criteria of 10 years or 200 games. The Club's Board recommended that due to 'Outstanding Service' Tregenza, Matthew LiptakDavid Pittman and Rod Jameson should be granted the honour …

“In my last year on the list, I didn’t play an AFL game so I knew the end was coming. Still, I was disappointed at the time and it was a big change to my lifestyle, so I probably didn’t fully appreciate the honour at the time.

“In retrospect, to be a Life Member of the Adelaide Football Club is sensational and something I’m extremely proud of. I feel very thankful the Club recognised us in that way.”

Tregenza played on in the SANFL, retiring after the 2000 season. In 2001, he took up the role as player/coach of Sacred Heart Old Collegians in the South Australian Amateur League and guided the club to the 2001 Premiership. Following this success, he was appointed Reserves coach at the Port Magpies …

“It was great fun but then I got married and kids and needed a ‘normal’ life! Coaching was rewarding, but it was still a reasonable time commitment. I probably didn’t prepare myself for life after footy, perhaps, as best as I could, so it was a bit of a transition period for me.

“I was working part-time and coaching and doing bits and pieces, but it got to the point where I had to go out and get a real job.”

For the past 10 years, Tregenza has worked at the Department of Human Services. He’s married with three children. A talented cricketer, with a high score of “160-odd”, the 44-year-old only recently called time on a long career with the bat and ball …

“I only really stopped playing cricket a couple of years ago. I played 25 years straight for SHOC in the Adelaide Turf Cricket Association. I still play the odd game here and there. It’s good to be involved.”

The Tregenza family are members of the Adelaide Football Club, and regularly attend games …

“The Club has always been exceptional in looking after me. We’ve got five tickets, so most games we get to as a family. I’ve got a daughter, who is about to turn 13, which is a bit scary! I also have a son about to turn 10 and another seven-year-old son. There’s an area where the past players go, so it’s good to catch up with some of the boys and their families.”

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs