FOR years she occupied the fifth seat on the interchange bench yet never once charged onto the paddock – despite inner urges.
Val Finley would tell youngsters to pull their socks up, tacklers to hit around the legs and referees to open their eyes.
“I hate players with their socks down. I said to one player on the weekend ‘even if you can’t play football you can at least like look like a footballer’,” she said during an interview with the Goulburn Post in 2010.
“I think some people would like to put that on my gravestone ‘pull up your bloody socks’.”
Val even had a word of advice for an incoming captaincoach with NRL experience.
“I’ve spent plenty of time having coffee with Val. I’ve learnt plenty about the culture of the club and the competition. She knows plenty about football,” outgoing Goulburn Workers Bulldogs coach, James Aubusson, explained during the first month of his tenure in charge.
The matriarch of Goulburn rugby league, Val Finley, is no longer with us.
Mrs Finley on Saturday passed away after a long battle with illness. Bourke Street Health Service has been her home for much of 2013.
Despite death, Val’s legacy and love of sport, in particular rugby league, will live on forever.
Budding local athletes to this day receive support through the Val Finley Junior Sports Foundation. Goulburn’s Mini League minor premiers, additionally, each year square off for a shield named in her honour.
Val’s love of both the Sydney Roosters and Goulburn United was legendary. It’s fitting, therefore, that she passed away just six days after her beloved tricolours scored a thrilling 26-18 grand final win – and with it, a 13th premiership.
She’s watched all but a few local first grade league matches in the last 40 years.
In 2010 she was confined to just two matches due to recovery from an accident. This year, plagued by illness, Val was a notable absentee at Workers Bulldogs games.
She took care of canteen duties for the better part of four decades and even to this year, was a familiar face at Bulldogs raffle stands.
Her fundraising wasn’t confined to sport, however.
She was a long-time director on the Challenge Foundation Board and most weeks could be seen out and about raising money for the Lions Club.
Her dedication is unrivalled. Her presence sorely missed.
“She was one in a million,” a devastated Margaret O’Neill said yesterday.
“She was my best friend. We had many arguments about rugby league, but at the end of the day, we both loved our football.
“I hope as many junior footballers as possible can come along to her funeral so we can give Val the send-off she deserves.”
It’s understood representatives from the Sydney Roosters will pay their respects.
Long-time United captain and present day Workers Bulldogs manager, John Payne, echoed Mrs O’Neill’s sentiments.
“She’s done a lot for Goulburn over the years,” he said.
“I first met Val when I played with her eldest son [Cecil] in ’67. Her late husband, John, was the coach.
“She’s been with us right the way through. Her contribution to football in Goulburn has been magnificent.”
Val is survived by her children Cecil, Austin and Faye.
She can now reunite with her late husband, John.
A service to celebrate the life of Val will be held at St Saviour’s Cathedral from 11.30am on Thursday.