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  • Writer's pictureJack Twohill

Dudley Redhead United: A local club with a local conscience

Like all football nations, Australians are intrinsically connected to their community through the round ball game. Many clubs around the country, some of whose links can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, were almost exclusively born off the backs of those who wanted a place to belong, socialise, and unite regularly. Sport, and football more specifically, was the catalyst that brought people of all different cultures and walks of life together.


In Newcastle, the history of Minmi Rangers, the first football club in the Newcastle/Hunter region, and possibly the most famous club, Adamstown Rosebud, has been well documented. However, Dudley Redhead United Football Club, whose roots trace back to 1896, have a unique story that deserves to be told.


Dudley competes in the Zone Premier League (ZPL) at a senior level, the de-facto third tier of the Northern NSW (NNSW) system. Without the relative shine of Northern NSW NPL sides such as Broadmeadow Magic or Adamstown Rosebud, or even a Northern League One side such as Wallsend FC, Dudley has maintained its status in the beachside suburbs of Whitebridge, Dudley, and Redhead through local works, a massive junior presence, and successful senior sides at the ZPL level. The club’s identity is perpetuated in the memory of a local legend, Peter "Spider" Jones, with a supporters hill carved in his honour at the first-grade home ground, Lydon Oval.

The picturesque Lydon Oval, nestled in the centre of Dudley. (Jack Twohill)


A local coal miner who lost his life in a mining accident in 2011, Jones left his mark on Dudley Redhead United and the surrounding community of Whitebridge. Mateship is often associated with his dedication to the football club and life. Many coaches over Jones' 400-game career tried to convince him to play in the higher grades of local football, but he would always retort with, 'Why - these are my mates, and Dudley is my club.' This sense of home is remembered for Dudley's first home game of the ZPL season against Cardiff City each year, where the "Spider" Jones Cup is contested. This year, Dudley completed the clean sweep, with a 7-0 win for their first-grade side and their third and reserve-grade sides also winning on an important day for the club. Their upgraded facilities were unveiled in late March.


"It was a great result and good effort from the boys, not just in first grade but across all three grades on a special day for the club and community," club captain Damian Cox told Front Page Football following their round one victory.


"Of course, championship ambitions are always at the forefront for the start of any season. You always want to instil a winning mindset, and especially after last season’s efforts, we feel like we have gotten stronger again, adding more depth across all three grades. So, those ambitions always play some importance.


"But really, the positive culture we build across the three grades and the club as a whole is of the utmost importance, and that is where everything else stems from, including championships."


Dudley has backed up this winning start to the season with three wins and one loss, sitting fourth with games in hand and seeking to back up their 2022 championship run. The promising start to season 2023 continues the perennial success Dudley has experienced in the ZPL since 2016. They have finished in the top four every year, aside from the COVID-interrupted 2020 campaign.


Women's football is also a massive part of Dudley's identity. They have been celebrated for their commitment to providing an inclusive environment for all football lovers, culminating in Dudley introducing more female-friendly facilities. Improvements include more private changing facilities, which, without being implemented, often lead female players to be turned away from the sport. There is also now superior flood lighting around the ground, with the safety of female players and fans of paramount consideration. These upgrades have resulted in a notable uptick in female participation in recent years. Three all-age women's teams were fielded in 2023. Dudley will also celebrate the NNSW Female Football Week on May 21.

Dudley's all age women's side for 2023. (Dudley Redhead United Senior Football Club Facebook)


Player Emma McFayden further commented on Dudley's continual commitment to women's football.


"I think we created an environment that is welcoming and encouraging for women to be a part of the club. From humble beginnings - struggling to pull one team together - we are now three women’s teams strong, and interest is growing faster than we can keep up with!" McFayden said.


"We did this by fostering an inclusive community, by welcoming women to be a part of our club in any way, whether it's playing, being part of the committee, being a spectator or volunteer. We have lots of friendly faces around who are passionate about getting women to enjoy football.


"We have events like the Annual Black & White Ball and Ladies Day, as well as countless other social events in which we aim to bring everyone in our club together."


Dudley's community outreach symbolises the club’s intimate relationship with its local community. The club’s dedication to the Charlie's Run 4 Kids (CR4K) is at the forefront of Dudley's conscience. Charlie's Run 4 Kids is a yearly fundraiser that sees participants run from Seals Rocks on the mid-north coast of NSW to Dudley, covering 150 kilometres in five days to raise money for local children affected by rare childhood cancers, in the name of Charlotte (Charlie) Carr. After being diagnosed with neuroblastoma at eight-and-a-half months, Carr's passing was felt by all in the community in 2015. The yearly run serves as a reminder of her bravery, and the community's generosity towards her is still felt today.


Club secretary and CR4K runner Sharron Walker best explained Dudley's fantastic connection to this cause.


"Our club prides itself on being an integral part of our community, and supporting local charities is very important to us. We have a very strong connection with Charlie's Run 4 Kids as Brett (Charlie's dad) used to play for us and still supports us from the hill alongside his twin brother and many other CR4K runners," she said.


"Of the 51 runners who have run the 150 kilometres from Seal Rocks to Dudley, over 20 have represented the club at some level, including four females."

Those who participated in the Charlie's Run 4 Kids 2023. (Charlie's Run 4 Kids Facebook)


The most recent effort raised $39,396 for five-year-old Lilah Hogan, diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and Savannah Reading, diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Dudley and other local sports clubs, community organisations, and businesses aim to raise $50,000 for the cause. The annual Charlie Carr Cup against Kotara South FC at Lydon Oval serves as another reminder that grassroots means more than football.


Club President Craig Goodchild best summarised Dudley's aspirations in a football and community sense.


"Essentially, our aspirations as a club have not changed. We will continue to push the standards of the ZPL and cement our position as the top team in all three grades. As a community-based club, we strive to further develop our community involvement, charity partnerships, and inclusivity," he told FPF.


"So, no great changes in our goals; just continuing our projection with greater velocity while keeping to the heart of what makes our small club great."


Click here to donate to Charlie's Run 4 Kids and support families fighting childhood cancers.


Click here to read more of FPF's local Australian football stories!

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