Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching reflects on his final meeting in the role at the club on Wednesday. Picture: Claire Power
Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching reflects on his final meeting in the role at the club on Wednesday. Picture: Claire Power

Farewell Brett: Football lessons that helped shape success

WHEN iconic Ipswich all-rounder Brett Kitching is farewelled on Sunday, he'll share a heartfelt message of thanks.

As a fifth generation Ipswich family member, the retiring Ipswich Turf Club general manager typifies the working class values that conquer challenges and reap rewards.

"I am enormously proud of my Ipswich upbringing,'' Kitching said, celebrating his 58th birthday today.

"Ipswich has been terrific to me in work, life, and sport and goes to show if you understand who you are and make the most of what you've got, there are opportunities in Ipswich and a great deal that can be achieved.''

Kitching leaves his second home at the turf club after 17 years of tremendous service.

He has overseen a period of massive growth and change from helping revitalise the Ipswich Cup, dealing with track issues and welcoming the multi-million dollar Ipswich Events and Entertainment Centre.

But he has one misgiving in his turf club life.

"The only regret was not getting along with everyone all of the time,'' he said.

"The reason for this is that I was doing my job which was to consistently do the best thing for the Ipswich Turf Club and the city of Ipswich.

"I have found it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time in racing. However what I have been is consistent and I cannot think of anything that I would have done differently over the past 17 years.''

That sums up Kitching perfectly.

Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching on the steps to success. Picture: Rob Williams
Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching on the steps to success. Picture: Rob Williams

As Kitching says goodbye this weekend, he appreciates the backing and loyalty he has received.

"The biggest helpers to me have been my immediate family for their support in allowing me to do my jobs not just over the past 17 years, but indeed over the 33 years,'' he said.

They include his wife Annette, who Brett married in 1988 after meeting three years earlier.

"Without the support of those closest to us it is almost impossible I suspect for the one out working to achieve too much,'' he said.

"Annette was strongly there whilst doing the most important job in the world raising the family and keeping the home as I was out doing my part in workplaces of Ipswich.

"This was after Annette finished working for Red Cross and ATO as well being an aerobics instructor.''

The popular Ipswich couple had businesses together - a tax agency in the 1980s, owner/operators of the Redbank Plains Health and Fitness Centre Squash Gym and Aerobics Centre in the 1990s, and the Peakview Horse Farm in the 2000s.

They ran those businesses while Brett worked mostly in Ipswich including at CSR Hardboards (1987-1999), Steggles Chickens (2001-2004) and the turf club (2004-2021).

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Brett and Annette Kitching at the 2008 Mayor's Ball
Brett and Annette Kitching at the 2008 Mayor's Ball

Outside of family and friends, Kitching was grateful for other backers.

"Many people have given strong support in the job but special mention goes to a relative from the Kitching line - Jo-Ann Miller.

"For her honest approach of doing whatever was needed to be done, whoever it upset, for the good of Ipswich and the Ipswich Turf Club,'' Kitching said.

"Examples of this were the parts she played in bringing highly successful Labour Day races to Ipswich and for keeping the infrastructure project on track.''

Sports fanatic, whiz with numbers

Away from the turf club, Kitching has been a proverbial jack of all trades with an incredible ability to recall past milestones and achievements.

He was a more than handy footballer with Ipswich United, St Helen's and briefly Townsville.

"In the 1960s in Ipswich, you knew who you were and what you did - work hard, stick firmly loyal with your family, and play hard at sports on the weekend,'' the former midfielder said.

"That meant I had a go at many sports though not always well - swimming, cricket, basketball, squash, tennis, golf, and of course football.

"I just developed a love affair with sports especially football from a very young age.''

Brett Kitching playing for Ipswich United. Picture: QT file
Brett Kitching playing for Ipswich United. Picture: QT file

The Ipswich born and bred achiever has so many great footballing memories.

"I received St Helen's senior player of the year 1979, Queensland State League and Ampol Cup medals with Townsville 1982,'' he begins.

"I scored in a Kruger Cup win for Ipswich over Brisbane 1985, won a grand final with Ipswich in 1989, had premiership/grand final wins with Ipswich Knights lower division in 1999, and with the mighty Ipswich Knights Greenants over 35s in 2010.

"But my favourite football moment was the 1985 grand final win which gave Ipswich United the double after winning the Brisbane Premiership - that was the last Ipswich side to win a first division premiership and I became the third generation of an Ipswich family to do so.

"In Ipswich in 1978, I was in the squad as a 16 year old and took great inspiration from Ipswich United winning the Ampol Cup - the first Ipswich silverware for decades.''

Ipswich sports fanatic Brett Kitching cheering on Leeds.
Ipswich sports fanatic Brett Kitching cheering on Leeds.

Kitching's sporting fanaticism extended to his life as a spectator in Ipswich and overseas.

In 2010, he watched Leeds United defeat Crystal Palace 2-1 at Elland Road with former Ipswichian and Leeds midfielder Neil Kilkenny organising a stadium tour along with cousin Jon, son Alex.

"I met former greats Eddie Gray and re-met Allan Clarke before watching as Luciano Becchio scored 81 and 83 minute goals for a come from behind win,'' he said.

"I have since seen Leeds United play five times as a spectator.''

Those who know Kitching will often see him spread his allegiances between Leeds and Liverpool.

"I love the Liverpool story but true allegiance is with Leeds,'' he said.

"The Kitching family originated there in 1800 running pubs. I fell in love with the hard but skilful whites watching the early 70s especially the 1972 FA Cup final 1-0 win from an Allan 'Sniffer' Clarke 14 yard header.

"That same player then made a guest appearance for Townsville taking me under his wing in 1981 when we beat Wynnum by Sniffer's three goals to nil.

"We last went to Elland Road last year for the Wigan game in the season that Leeds were promoted back to EPL for the first time in 16 years.''

Retiring Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching in his soccer supporters strip.
Retiring Ipswich Turf Club general manager Brett Kitching in his soccer supporters strip.

Kitching's favourite footballer is Brazilian great Pele. He visited his museum at Santos in Brazil in 2014.

Kitching has also been to 20 English football matches and four Olympics football matches, as well as thoroughbred horse races in 12 countries around the world

The former Ipswich representative swimmer and basketballer revealed the top three Ipswich footballers he played with and against.

Jeff Dann: "Speedy, direct, and skill to burn."

Ian Lawrie: "Big and strong and just as good on either foot with sublime vision."

Kevin Caldwell: "Speedy, skilful, never a backward step with an eye for goal."

Valuable sport, life lessons

The Bruce Springsteen fan shared how playing sport had assisted him in work life.

"Football lessons have helped me enormously at work as well as throughout life in general,'' he said.

"A good football team shows affinity, loyalty, hard work and honesty with each other. That team recognises each other's strengths and weaknesses and works together to win the title - all lessons to follow at work and throughout life in general.''

Always energetic Brett Kitching, controlling the midfield during his Ipswich United days.
Always energetic Brett Kitching, controlling the midfield during his Ipswich United days.

His most satisfying moment in football was being awarded player of the match in Ipswich United's 1985 grand final triumph.

But he knows as well as anyone, success doesn't come easy in Ipswich.

"Ipswich has never really had it handed on a platter,'' he said.

"Generally, we are a working class city who had to battle to get anywhere born out of the former coal miner mentality, so it has been handed down over generations to battle with perseverance and tenacity to make the most of your abilities.''

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Ipswich Turf Club chairman Wayne Patch and general manager Brett Kitching with the Ipswich Cups. Picture: Inga Williams
Ipswich Turf Club chairman Wayne Patch and general manager Brett Kitching with the Ipswich Cups. Picture: Inga Williams

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Born at St Andrew's Hospital on February 25, 1963, Kitching plans to pursue his passion for fishing and picking winners when he settles permanently in northern NSW.

"We have already sold the Ipswich house so permanently relocated to Australia's number one beach at Cabarita where we built on a canal in 2008,'' he said.

"We will be fishing much more regularly and taking up lawn bowling, whilst regularly visiting family in Ipswich where I do not now have a home for the first time in my lifetime.''

Brett and Annette Kitching on a 2015 family holiday to Athens with children Ellen, Ondreea and Alex. The Olympic stadium is in the background.
Brett and Annette Kitching on a 2015 family holiday to Athens with children Ellen, Ondreea and Alex. The Olympic stadium is in the background.

He is immensely proud of his children Alex, 30, Ondreea, 28, and Ellen, 26.

Alex is just about to sign another three-year contract with the Queensland Racing Integrity Commission as Chief Greyhounds Steward of Queensland.

Ondreea is at home after seven years of international dancing. She is working in hospitality and dance teaching at four different schools.

Ellen is in her fourth year of secondary teaching and has just been appointed Director of a recently introduced Centre for Excellence in Performing Arts at Glenala High School.

"To see them strongly making their own way in life is everything,'' Brett said.

"It is not always clear sailing but to see the lives they are living now, with ambition, loyalty, and integrity is mighty gratifying.''

Brett and Annette Kitching on their 2015 family Mediterranean cruise with children Ondreea, Alex and Ellen.
Brett and Annette Kitching on their 2015 family Mediterranean cruise with children Ondreea, Alex and Ellen.

Quizzed on what he miss most about living in Ipswich, Kitching will retain a strong link to the city.

"I have always felt comfort and at home in my hometown - even when playing football and studying in Townsville as a youngster or working in Oberon where our third was born 26 years ago,'' he said.

"I always felt that something was missing - this time our new residence is just a drive up the M1 when getting that feeling again.''

As for how the multi-talented Kitching wants others to recall his legacy, he answers in his usual calm, ever thoughtful manner.

"I would like to be remembered as a no-fuss, hard working family man, a proud fifth generation Ipswichian of who made the most of what he had with integrity, honesty and loyalty to those closest to him.''

Those qualities will surely be highlighted at his farewell get-together on Sunday.

Thanks Brett for everything you've done for Ipswich.