John Masters is a Life Member, Foundation Member and Past Committee Member of the Waverley Little Athletics Centre Inc. He was also a Founding Member and Past Committee Member of the former Panthers Little Athletics Club. At the time of his resignation from the Centre Committee, John was and remains one of the longest serving Founding Members and was the longest serving Committee Member at that time, having served on the Committee for 7 years from 1968/73. This record stood until 1982/83, when Tony McMahon served his 8th year on the Centre Committee.
John grew up in Country Victoria where he played Football and was a champion Tennis player. He moved to the Glen Waverley area and established his family, during a time when the area was still developing. John recalls of how the area can be compared to the Pakenham of today, developing and booming. Blackburn Road was just a dirt road and there wasn’t much else around. All of John’s children participated at the Waverley Centre from U8-U12's.
Little Athletics was established in Geelong in 1964 by Trevor Billingham and Alan Triscott, and in the years that followed, new Centres were being formed within Metropolitan Melbourne and Regional Victoria. The Waverley Centre (no.34) was established on 12th November 1968. John Masters attended the Foundation Meeting held in Glen Waverley, and was one of the many new parent volunteers that put their hands up to establish the Centre and associated Clubs. John recalls meeting with Trevor Billingham and Alan Triscott to discuss establishing and operating the Centre and Clubs.
The Panthers Little Athletics Club was formed as part of the Waverley Centre and John served as a Committee Member of the Club from 1968/75 in various roles. The Club was responsible for organsing their own athletes and officials, held its own functions and fundraisers and presentation nights. All Clubs were formed based on the local schools in the Waverley area, but the Panthers was made up of several schools, which included: Amstel Primary School, Mulgrave Primary School, Pinewood Primary School and Wellington Primary School. John recalls that the Panthers Club name and colours (Red) were chosen to represent the local Waverley Panthers Football Club. The colours of Red, White and Black were later adopted by the Waverley Centre (in the early 1990’s) and the Waverley Amateur Athletics Club.
John volunteered at the Waverley Centre during the formation years, when the sport was new to everyone, when rules were being created and changed and when there was no technology such as computers, email, zoom or smart phones. John spent many hours per week dedicated to Little Athletics, both behind the scenes and out on the track. When John’s oldest child was in U8, his younger children often tagged along to watch, so John looked after them while also volunteering at the Centre as they were too young to participate. Everything John was involved in was done in person or by hand. There was no electronic recording of events. Results were recorded manually and tickets were handwritten. Club and Centre Meetings were held in person at different members houses. Correspondence was sent in the mail in the form of letters. Centre Records and standards were manually maintained. Club and athletes' points were manually graded and calculated. Programs were handwritten.
Over his 7 years on the Committee, John held the positions of Championship Officer, Recorder and Grader, Region Delegate and he was a coach. He made it his effort to encourage all parents to get involved in some capacity. “There were too many parents that treated Little Athletics as a babysitting service”, so John did his best to change this culture. He was somewhat successful and all that hard work paid off. He also helped lobby the Waverley Council to build the original (now former and demolished) equipment sheds. John was in charge of organising the Waverley Championships. His job was to choose Waverley athletes to represent the Centre at the Regional and State Championship events. This was during a time when the Centre had to select the best performing athletes per event, due to the high number of athletes registered at each Centre. John was in charge of organising, selecting and coaching relay teams and team managing everyone at the championship events. The 4 fastest athletes were picked to run the 4x100m, Medley etc, athletes could only participate in one event each and the Centre could only enter 2 events per gender per age group. The 4 athletes that ran the final would take home a medal and the 5th runner would take home the championship banner.
The highlight of John’s time at Waverley was in the early 1970’s at VFL Park, when the Relay teams John organised won 6-7 Gold, 3-4 Silver and a few Bronze medals. The following year at Olympic Park, his teams won 11 Gold, 5 Silver and 1 Bronze medal. Waverley could feel a sense of hatred from the crowd for being a powerhouse Centre.
John spent his last two years on the Centre Committee as a Recorder & Grader, responsible for collating the handwritten results from each Club after each weeks competition and calculating the points tally. He often did this from home in the following days, with the help of his wife.
The Centre t-shirts from 1968 until the early 1990’s were plain Navy Blue with the number 34 patched on the front. According to John, “back in those days families didn’t have a lot of money and the uniforms were sold for 50 cents each”. Waverley soon adopted the nickname “the navy blues”.
When John and his family finished their association at the Waverley Little Athletics Centre, he became involved at the Waverley Amateur Athletics Club (senior club) where he was asked to join their Committee to provide leadership and guidance. He served on the Club Committee, was Club President in 1981/82 and was awarded Life Membership sometime in the 1980’s.
In the decades since John’s involvement at the Centre, he always kept a keen interest in what was happening at Waverley. During the early 2010’s, John often visited the Centre while his grandchildren participated at Waverley and he often volunteered as Recording Tent Assistant, helping his daughter in law Wendy Masters when she served on the Centre Committee. He also assisted Wendy at the Region and State Championships during her time as Championship Team Manager. John has also been more than willing to assist Centre President Dylan Cooper with researching the history of the Centre and in particular, the origins and foundation period.
John is a fantastic gentleman and during his time at the Waverley Centre he was one of the hardest working and dedicated volunteers that helped establish and build everything we have today. He was always willing to support the Centre anyway he could. After researching the history of our Centre, John should have been awarded the first Life Membership at Waverley, 46 years ago, but unfortunately Life Memberships weren’t offered until until 1982/83, therefore John was never honoured in recognition of his exemplary services to the Waverley Centre. Even though he is longer actively involved at the Centre, he still shows a keen interest in how the Centre is operating, is happy to visit and remain somewhat connected to the Centre, which is the true meaning of a "Life Member".
In 2020/21, John was awarded Life Membership at the Waverley Little Athletics Centre Inc., in recognition his outstanding general service to the Centre.
- 2020/21 - WLAC Life Member
- 1968/69 - Foundation Member - Panthers Little Athletics Club
- 1968/75 - Committee Member - Panthers Little Athletics Club
- 1968/69 - Foundation Member
- 1968/73 - Committee - Championships
- 1973/74 - Committee - Grader
- 1974/75 - Committee - Recorders & Graders
- 1975/76 - Centre Coach
- 2011/13 - Recording Tent Assistant
- 2011/13 - Team Managers Assistant