Q & A with Bruce and Declan O’Donnell

This week we’re highlighting father and son duo Bruce and Declan O’Donnell. With Declan’s 18th birthday last week, we all thought it would be fun to hear about their football story and how they both came to find a home at Cookers… and maybe get a little banter going between the two 😉

Bruce & Declan, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. We’ll start off with, how long have you both been involved in football through playing, volunteering, supporting etc?

Bruce: A very long time, since I was 8 years old, when I started playing for Lambton Soccer Club (now JAFFAS). Forty six years later, I still “love the game”, only having a few years (playing or coaching) off along the way. My last game was in 2015, when playing O/35s, when a knee injury, to my wife’s delight, curtailed playing competitively. Coaching (since 1994, various teams at both Club and school levels) and supporting local football has been constant  and  an enjoyable past time.


Declan: Pretty much all my life, I was born during the 2002 WC, where Dad watched matches in the hospital. I wore my first LFC shirt home. Started playing when I was 5 yo with school friends at Merewether United FC and have played ever since. Moved to Hamilton Olympic when I was 9yo, had a season with Newcastle Football, and moved to Cooks Hill in 2018.

Bruce, you’ve been involved with Cookers since 1998, that’s amazing! How did you first get involved in the club and what are you up to now?


Bruce: Played the first year as a invitational player in 98 in the E Grade team with my brother-in-law Gav McInally and his mate Craig Heigh (Heighsy, Life Member), then started in 1999 as a full player (co- coach) of E grade. Played in 2000 in the first ID team/s. During these early years in the Inter-District competition and playing on National Pk No 4 there was no canteen, so hot dogs and beer were sold from an old Schweppes drinks van, which I used to tow in and setup on the sideline.

Now coaching the U/18 NewFM team and the U/17 Girls team at CHUFC in 2020, as well as helping out on the Senior NewFM committee, manning the gate on most game days.

Declan, by the sounds of it you were destined to play football. What do you love most about playing football and your team at Cookers?


Declan: Was going to be hard not to like it. Dad has been coaching me about football for my whole life. I like it for the competition, testing yourself each week in a game. The mates you make is always good and understanding the game has always been an interest. The u/18 team this year are a good team, as we all get along very well. Hoping to have a good season.

Let’s talk about 2020 and how different football is looking this year, how have you both been handled the changes to the season and training over the last couple of months?


Bruce: It has been a season like no other, to state the obvious, training without contact has been interesting. A positive has been the increase in basic skills (first touch, passing etc) and conditioning which has had to be implemented due to training rules.

Declan: Would rather play a longer season than what is scheduled. The training has been a little boring without proper game training. Passing drills become tedious.

What did you miss most about football during lockdown?

Bruce: The “banter” around football, be it with players, coaches, supporters and fans of football. Always been a good topic of conversation for discussion and opinions. Also, watching it, especially the EPL and A-League. I did continue to study more about the game, with a few Webinars on coaching from NNSW and Football NSW. Even watched a mini- series about Sunderland FC to keep interested.

Declan: Playing and training. Not being able to watch and follow football competitions overseas.

Declan, what’s the best thing about playing football in in your Dad’s footsteps.

Not sure I’m really following in his footsteps, maybe at Cooks Hill, yes. I have got to know a lot of people in the Club including coaches, players and the committee. Mum and Dad have probably been able to give me opportunities and support in football to succeed.

And what about the most challenging?

Being my coach on a number of teams has had its moments. He has been quite hard on me at times, to my mum’s annoyance. Another challenge has been getting to training so early (for setup) and when he stuffs up a drill.

Bruce. What’s been the best thing about seeing Declan follow in your footsteps?

Probably his commitment to keep playing the game for so long. He has benefited from the opportunities he has had to learn and play the game. Happy that he is playing at Cooks Hill now. Coach education has improved over the years, which he has benefited from.

What’s one football lesson that your dad has taught you that has made a big difference to your game?

Probably, “always make your first tackle in a game your hardest” to get your opponent on the back foot.

Bruce, what’s one lesson that you’ve tried to teach Declan, but that he just doesn’t seem interested in learning?

Training ethic, “the way you train is the way you play” as he really needs to work harder at training. He is getting better at this though.

Bruce what has been the highlight of your football career?

 For my playing career, probably winning the Premiership and GF, when playing for Albury City (Olympic) in First Grade in the mid -nineties. Coaching the Cookers U/17 NewFM team to a GF win over Westy in 2017 as well as the first ID team (Reserve Grade) in 2001 to make a GF.

Declan, what’s the best story your Dad has shared with you about his football career?

When an opposition player “went over the ball” when challenging my Dad who had the ball, ending up being sent off and breaking his own leg. Dad reckons he got up and played on. I still really don’t believe it though.

Declan, if you could achieve one thing playing for Cookers, what would it be?

 Achieving NPL status and making another Grand Final.

Finally, we like to end these questions on a personal note, if you could have dinner with any football player in the world (living or past) who would it be and why?

Bruce: I think it has to be Roy Keene (Manchester United and Ireland). I am definitely not a Man U fan, but this bloke, for me was the “all round” footballer, that could do it all. His passion for the game at both training and game day was second to none, his technical and tactical ability put him as a most versatile player, able to play all positions. Lastly, his will to win spurred on his team to many trophies over a period of a decade.

Declan: Fabinho (Liverpool and Brazil). A midfielder who plays the way I like, as we play the same position.