It’s safe to say that the footballers of Perth Glory have done it tough this A-League Men’s season.
Away from their families for weeks on end. Hotel quarantine, home games in Tasmania. This week, they will drag their weary bodies and minds back – finally – to WA, for their long-awaited homecoming on Sunday, in front of what is sure to be a bumper crowd against Adelaide United.
Yet while the players are to be applauded for their perseverance, there are those behind the scenes who have gone above and beyond to keep the Glory ship on an even keel.
Brett Lambert is the clubs Property & Logistics Manager – a title that perhaps makes him sound a little more like an admin clerk. But his reality is very different on a day-by-day basis – particularly in the months spent hauling the entire roadshow around the country.
Lambert has been with the club for fifteen years – and he freely admits, this has been his toughest period. Shifting gear from one state to another is a particular problem.
“When we left on the 17th of January, we couldn’t just load up the plane with everything we needed. We loaded up a couple of pallets, which were predominantly the heavy items for training. Weights and hurdles for example. But we can’t just cart around things like mannequins & small portable goals, as they are too awkward to travel with. But, over the years we’ve made some contacts at local clubs who have been very obliging and helpful. Clubs in Sydney, like Pagewood Botany FC, have been very good - allowing us to do some rehab on their fields, supplying mannequins and goals, which we then drop back to them. There are others like Hume City. Their coach, Nick Hegarty, spent some time with Glory - so those relationships have been crucial for me over the years. We use their training equipment when we are in Melbourne” says Lambert.
It's not just training equipment, however. Having a star like Daniel Sturridge among the clubs ranks, brings different pressures.
“We need to ensure we have shirts, letters, numbers, for the fans who want to buy them. We have borrowed heat presses from Gymea United in the (Sydney) Sutherland Shire –to repress shirts. In return we give them a signed ball or shirt. These local clubs have been a godsend” says Lambert.
“Daniel and his girlfriend & baby don’t yet have anywhere to live in Perth – so they are literally living out of eight suitcases. We can’t get on a plane with eight suitcases. He stayed in Sydney after we had to quarantine in Brisbane, living in an Air BnB there. Then he had to move out to Melbourne with us – so we are moving bags around the country for him. He ordered a baby cot a while back, and it’s only just arrived, because every time we moved, he had to change the delivery address” he adds.
The longer Glory have been away from WA, the more the logistical problems have grown.
“When we left Perth in January, the boys obviously needed extra baggage for the longer stay – so anything extra we had to send via pallets. They initially went to Melbourne, and then we moved them onto Sydney, and from Sydney to Tasmania. But we also have families here now too. Many of them have kids, with strollers. So, our pallet loads have increased hugely. We can’t rely on road freight because CoVid has made those deliveries uncertain. I’ve just come back now from the Transport Guard in Launceston, where I’ve been strapping pallets. They will now head back to Perth from Launceston, while we will head to Melbourne to play City on Wednesday” says Lambert.
If this all sounds like a planning nightmare, you’re not wrong. And we haven’t even got on to the topic of laundering the kits for the men’s (and, as of the last few days, the women’s) teams.
“The washing of the kit is another level. We are sneaking off to laundromats late in the night – because you can imagine in Sydney, just how many are at the local laundromat during the day. We started off in Adelaide, and the hotels there are good, but the turnaround is slow. So, if we need something done, we are off to the laundromat. I’ve never seen so many pairs of underpants in my life - all the players have to write their names on their pants! When we were in Brisbane there were only coin operated laundromats, so we were going to the bank with notes, and coming back jingling with pockets full of coins. The travelling group here is sixty plus – including wives etc. So, sixty pairs of jocks, kits….and they train too. There’s a lot of washing” laughs Lambert.
“We” is the logistics team of two – Lambert, and Russell Watts, known to everyone at Glory as Rusty. He was initially a volunteer, but ended coming on board on a full-time basis as the competition grew. Talking of volunteers – two more deserve huge credit for helping Glory through their darkest hours. Lambert takes up the story.
“In Brisbane, after the positive test result for one of the players, we were told we had to move to a CoVid hotel and do the 14-day quarantine. We were escorted out via the goods lift by plain clothes detectives onto a bus. Now, I always keep the playing gear in my room for safety, hanging the shirts in the wardrobe. So, I’ve got six bags – three home kits, three away. I can’t carry all that on my own – so the police had to give me a hand!” laughs Lambert.
After checking into a shoebox-sized room in the quarantine hotel with his own effects and six bags of training gear, Lambert realised there was another problem. The team rooms at the previous hotel, which housed training equipment, nutrition stations, boots, roller mats, rehabilitation equipment – all left behind. Now trapped in quarantine, Lambert had no way of packing up the rest of Glory’s gear.
“I kept asking - what about the equipment? I contacted a guy in Brisbane who I’d met a couple of times – a Glory fan. I said to him, mate I need a favour. I don’t know anyone in Brisbane – can you go to the hotel and pack up our room? He said he could do it, and would get a friend to help. But the hotel then said we couldn’t take it – it was regarded as being contaminated. The guys would need to get PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to even touch the stuff! I rang my guy back. As luck would have it, his mate worked at a hospital… they got the PPE” laughs Lambert.
However, as one problem seemed solved, another quickly arose.
“By then, we had found out we could go back to Perth for Christmas – so I needed them to do it that night, as we were on the plane the next day! I had no idea how they were going to get it from the hotel to the airport. We were flying out on the chartered flight – so with the protocols, no-one could come near us. The solution was ex-Socceroo Jon McKain, working for the PFA in Brisbane. Jonny said he would go and get the van. He said ‘your guys can load the van because I can’t go near the stuff – and then I’ll drive it to the airport’” says Lambert.
So, the two Glory fans – Brayden Hoffman and Russell Sommerville - loaded the van, with Lambert giving them instructions via FaceTime as to which equipment needed to go in which box or bag.
“I could hear them saying – ‘Oh my God look, it’s Bruno’s (Fornaroli) boots!” laughs Lambert. But they got the job done, with McKain completing the footballing equivalent of Houdini, arriving in time with the van and its contents, in order to meet the chartered flight.
They haven’t been the only mishaps to befall Glory in their time on the road. In the last few days, the players and coaching staff spotted a fire at their Launceston retreat, scrambling to grab garden hoses to try and douse the flames on a pine tree that had caught alight and was threatening the players cabins. Many of the squad also came unprepared for the cooler weather in Tasmania, and have had to buy hoodies and coats, just to keep warm. Head Coach, Richard Garcia, is apparently keeping a diary of all the incidents – which may one day provide good material for a book.
Through it all, Brett Lambert has tried to maintain his good humour in trying circumstances. But he admits it has taken its toll.
“It’s very stressful. Waiting for things to turn up in particular. These pallets in Launceston need to leave here today (Monday) to connect with the ferry that leaves tonight for Melbourne, to connect with the truck that goes from Melbourne to Perth on Tuesday evening. It arrives in Perth on Friday ahead of the home game on Sunday, providing it all goes to plan. Things like our playing kit, we’ll just have to take on the plane with us” says Lambert.
But the long exile has done wonders for team morale.
“It’s brought everyone close. Everyone knows everyone’s family. There’s even a few mother-in-laws on the trip – they are looking after the kids. Sometimes, Richie will get the staff together, and say we are all going out to lunch, but when we talk about a day off…well, really, it’s just a day off training. When my bum hits the bench on match day, I am relieved - that’s my ninety minutes off! Afterwards, I’m loading the van, doing the washing – arranging a recovery session with a local club. We’re looking forward to having some normality back again” he says.
A-League clubs simply wouldn’t function without the likes of Brett Lambert. Whatever Glory are paying him, it’s not enough.