Bruce Gonsalves, who played five senior games for the Pies in the mid-1970s and was part of the 1976 reserves premiership team, passed away last week. He was 63.
Gonsalves, known universally as ‘Pancho’, was a giant of a man, standing nearly 200cm in height and weighing in around 100kg. He had great hands, used his body well and was a fine kick for goal. He also had a decent on-field mean streak and wasn’t afraid to get stuck in to his opponents.
A ruckman/forward pocket, he kicked 48 goals with the reserves in 1976. He also bagged four goals against Hawthorn that year in just his second senior game, and a promising career beckoned.
But the Magpies were well stocked for big men at the time, with Len Thompson, Peter Moore and Bob Heard all ahead of him in the queue. He also had a notorious hatred of training, which did him no favours when the demanding Tommy Hafey took over as senior coach in 1977. He was soon on his way to Tasmania, and later played with both Preston and Northcote in the VFA.
Perhaps Pancho’s biggest influence was on his teammates. “The guys just loved him,” recalled former teammate and long-time friend Shane Bond.
“As a footballer he was a bloody good ruckman – great hands. But he wasn’t the greatest trainer.
“He was one of those great club characters – larger than life, always stirring everyone. He was just a beautiful big bloke … we all loved him.”
Bond spoke to Gonsalves as recently as two weeks ago, when he was experiencing illness. And the giant that everyone knew as Pancho died at his home earlier this week.
The Board, management, staff, coaches and players of the Collingwood Football Club acknowledge Bruce’s contribution to our footy club. Our thoughts are with his family, and all his friends both from Collingwood and beyond.
Side by Side.
To read Bruce’s full story and the stats from his career, check his bio on Forever: