Retiring Tony Beggs reflects on rewarding career of teaching
October 19, 2022
Long-time teaching staff member Tony Beggs is retiring at the end of this year after a rich and rewarding teaching career, having spent more than three of those decades guiding our students in the classroom and on the sporting fields.
Tony will be fondly remembered by the thousands of students who were in his computing and religious education classes or were coached by Tony in various school sports.
With incredible dedication and devotion, Tony was the Seconds cricket coach at SPC between 1991-2001, 2003-2004; badminton coach in 2002 and soccer coach for nearly two decades between 2005-2013, 2016-2022, sharing premiership glory in 2014-15.
Tony reflects on his long and distinguished career at SPC, including some of his fondest memories and experiences.
What year did you start at St Patrick’s College?
I taught one year in 1977 while I finished my Physics degree from Ballarat Uni. Then after 12 years in high schools, finishing at Wendouree High/Tech, I was fortunate to gain a replacement position at SPC after the Term 1 holidays in 1990.
What do you love about St Patrick’s College?
There are so many things that I have loved about St Pat’s: the relationships with the boys – there has been a general respect for teachers and their role in classwork and helping each boy in their own studies; the incredible school spirit which I have seen on the sporting fields and when there have been public events; the desire of senior students to do well for their futures; and interest between students and their teachers – they do want to relate to the teachers in the College. The connection to my Catholic faith has also been paramount in my connection and fulfillment in being at St Patrick’s College, probably highlighted by the special opportunity to teach scripture and Luke’s Gospel to the senior classes. It was an honour to be given the opportunity to teach the Gospel specifically to boys who wanted to learn more about their religion and basis of their faith.
Tell me about your teaching roles during your employment with St Patrick’s College?
I remember being told in my first year that I wouldn’t be allowed to teach Religious Studies because I had come for the High School system, but in my second year I began over 20 years of teaching year 11 Religion to the boys. I studied and this eventually led to Scripture Studies for 10 years, which was a highlight. Going back to early days at the College though, I began with Computer Studies and Physics and occasionally senior Mathematics classes.
You coached Cricket, Soccer, and for a brief period, Badminton. Tell me, what made you get involved in Coaching?
I played all the normal sports footy, cricket, tennis as a country kid living on a farm near Anakie, so it naturally led me into coaching. I had successful teams at Newcomb High with two All High Senior Cricket Championships. Hence, it was natural to continue coaching cricket in my early years at the College.
Gerard Ryan had the senior boys so I was given the Seconds team and 1991 started a great run of success for the next nine years. The players and captains are fantastic memories – all-rounder Karl Seketa, Craig ‘splinter’ Walsh, the Vogel brothers who could all bat, the twin Coates brothers who used to hook the ball into the high cypress trees on Hill Oval , Julian Storey who straight drove towering sixes, Dickinson who went on to open in District cricket, the dry but steady Pat Duffy who wore down the bowlers, even my eldest son Jeremy who played for 4 years in the teams ending with his own premiership as captain.
One year with captain Mark Potter and batsman Mark McCudden we lost 3 matches but scraped into the Grand Final against a star other St Pat’s team and we won by 2 runs with one wicket left to continue the line of good fortune. Eventually, my run in cricket wins came to an end because as hot favourites we were beaten by Gerard Bourke’s SPC team. It became obvious that my boys had celebrated before the final and we were bundled out for 44.
The respect between the boys and their coach has been unbreakable over these 30 years. There has hardly been a question raised against a direction or strategy as a coach as the boys always played their role as directed. Yes, many years we had boys with a lot of ability, but they needed to stay and operate as a team and this has been obvious to me whether it was cricket or soccer. Some of the captains especially during the soccer seasons have shown basically ESP with me as coach as we often came to the same decision about a change in structure or tactic during a game.
What did each of these coaching roles mean to you?
Coaching connected me to the boys in a special way. Teaching boys that I knew through sport enhanced their relationship with me in the classroom. They wanted to do their best on the field and also they wanted to bring that to their academic results in my classes. Hence, teaching in the senior levels RE and Computing – the boys wanted to maintain those relationships into class and seldom misbehaved but were ready to always talk about the next match or new season coming up.
Thomas Karras epitomises for me this fact as before his untimely death due to a train accident trying to save a friend’s dog, Tom always asked me about the coming soccer season and his desire to be keeper for the senior team.
What are you most proud of?
Teaching Luke’s Gospel to year 12s I am most proud of. I put an enormous amount of thought and preparation into my preparation and delivery of Scripture – telling students about OT and NT and the story of Jesus. What an honour for a teacher in a Catholic and Christian school. I hope I did a good job of passing on that passion I had for the subject.
What were the challenges?
During an early period I was the union representative and some of the difficulties faced were my most challenging. I tried to represent those teachers who couldn’t stand up for themselves at that time.
What do you distinctively remember in your first year or two or throughout your coaching and teaching with the college?
My first class in 1977 when I walked into a year 8 Maths class with a textbook in my hand and all the boys stood up – I had no idea of the respect that St Patrick’s boys had for their teachers and all of a sudden I was a teacher standing in front of 50 Year 8 boys.
Teaching Computers at Year 12 was special as we had to load Turbo Pascal onto the machines at the start of a lesson and it left very little time. Year 12 SACs would see the boys trying to complete their gigantic Dataflex databases at night-time with cut offs around 2am and the ghosts of the Science block would see us home.
What was a memorable moment during your time with the College?
So many moments with so many great staff and students. At my brother Michael’s funeral in Geelong when he died at 44 years of age, Maureen Phelan and Mark Reedy turned up with a bus load of maybe 20 of my students and they made a guard of honour for Michael’s coffin.
Cricket and soccer Grand Final wins were always special. The 2018 soccer Grand Final when we were down 1 nil with 4 minutes to play and we won 3-1 was a very special memory.
Which students stood out during your time for sports and teaching?
My last AFL coaching gig when St Pat’s belted a Year 10 Assumption College team by 20 goals included Crackers Keenan’s son, Mark Hanlon, Damian Harrington, Shaun O’Laughlin and a host of others who all went on to become champion footballers in their adult life.
Academically Gerard Ransome in Physics, Carly Shillito from Loreto, Michael Fraser and Mark Smith in Computers, even Ian Fernee was a stand-out, and also in Scripture and Luke’s Gospel Thomas Thorpe and Nigel Koot were stand outs. But so many excellent students throughout the years.
Let us move on, staff; you have worked and coached with staff over the years. Is there anyone that stands out?
Ian Fernee is my favourite as I taught Ian, was his immediate boss and then handed over the role of Head Of Computing to Ian. Again though so many favourites as I have been helped by many and many have inspired me – Frank Rice, Adrian Mullaly, John Cosgriff, Nathaniel Winfield, Jo Patching, Br Breach, and my IT colleagues Nick Ambrozy, Nicky Hexter, Paul Volpe with Andrew Agardy fantastic as Soccer coordinator.
In our community, a person who is not a student or a teacher has connected or contributed to the college, and it could be sports or teaching.
Br Zock was an institution and he still thrives with Joe the Cook at Nazareth House but I think Glenis Kydd has been that glue that kept everything together for so long in the front office. Br Davis had a good hand on liturgy during his time so shouldn’t be missed. Our own Mitch Leviston also has the voice and the passion for liturgy which he is passing on to the boys.
Can you tell me about the principals during your time, i.e., Br Buckley, Br Collins, Peter Casey, John Crowley and Stephen Hill, Steven O’Connor?
It would be unfair for me to single out the good and bad of each but they all tried their best to grow the College and each faced different struggles. Casey was the revolutionary and his replacement of brick walls with windows at a time when the church establishment was under immense threat, stands out as charismatic in its simplicity. Peter did many things that shored up the College from floundering to strength.
What message do you have for parents, students, and staff?
I thank the parents for the faith they had in me to teach and coach their sons over the length of my time at St Patrick’s College. Parents would take my opinion as sacrosanct and admonish their sons if they deserved and more often than not be pleased with my positive comments on their sons. There has hardly been a member of staff in all my time that I had a disagreement with and if so we could work towards a mutually acceptable arrangement. I have tried to always be welcoming to staff when I knew them and especially I tried to greet those quiet boys who would need a smile and a pick me up. Life can be wonderful and our good fortune is worth sharing with others.
What would you change if you could?
Nothing – life has been lived through teaching and coaching at St Patrick’s College. I have been blessed to teach Religion, Scripture, Physics, Mathematics and Computers to some wonderful boys at the College. I have wished the best for all of the fine students I have had the privilege to teach.
What do you wish for the future of the College?
I hope the College continues in the values and ventures that has made it such a great school for Ballarat and district boys; adding the inclusion of the indigenous boys and immigrant families from all areas of the world. I hope it stays a Catholic school but open to new ideas and new peoples but holding onto its core directions of Jesus Christ and his message of love for all peoples.
Where do you see the College 10 – 20- years from now?
St Patrick’s College will continue to help boys turn into wonderful adult men, full of life, skilled and confident in their abilities and prepared to stand up for what is right.
What are your plans?
My wife Kaye and I have recently purchased a property that oversees the tower of St Columba’s Catholic Church in Soldiers Hill. We hope that we are able to be grandparents to our grandsons attending the school. I hope to have a role in family and church which looks like being Secretary of the Cathedral parish.
And what does faith mean to you?
Faith in God is so important to me throughout my life. It is not complex for me but profound. I sometimes wish my faith was more tangible but being a special minister and offering the body of Jesus to students of St Patrick’s has delivered some of the most profound moments in my life.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I have not asked?
The journey I have lived at St Patrick’s College started after some discernment in the Horsham catholic church during May of 1990. I thank God that I was directed to join this wonderful educational institution.