Ian McLeod, a Box Hill champion

In 1954, John Frederick McLeod, an urbane young Englishman with a pleasant disposition, arrived by steamer at Port Melbourne as part of another wave of British migrants. It would be an auspicious event for Box Hill Soccer Club.

John was so easy going that he happily adopted the name “Ian” to avoid confusion with another John McLeod, who was part of Box Hill at the time. Ian McLeod was sponsored as a migrant to Australia by Mr and Mrs Ken Hoyle, whose son Adrian became a great friend to him. Ian lived with the Hoyles for a time, then moved to a boarding house in Hawthorn where several other soccer club players lived. He originally tried playing Aussie Rules with the Hawthorn VFL team, no doubt curious about this local hybrid game, but soon committed himself to Box Hill. Ian was an elegant midfield player, who quickly became a mainstay in the first team. He won the club’s best and fairest medal and in 1957 was awarded the coveted Argus Medal as the best player in Victoria’s top league, the First Division.

Ian McLeod (centre middle back row) at a Box Hill Soccer Club dinner circa 1955.

As a sign of his passion for the world game, in 1958 he took his new English girlfriend Ann to a match at Olympic Park as their first date. The famous English footballer Sir Stanley Matthews was playing for his club Blackpool against the Australian national team. Ian couldn’t bear the idea of missing the game and Ann seemed to forgive him for his unusual idea of a romantic outing. They married soon after. After a stellar career with Box Hill, Ian also played for Moreland and Doncaster, later returning to Box Hill to coach junior teams and serve on the committee.

Ian and Ann’s sons Greg and Andrew both played for Box Hill with distinction. Tragically, Ian died in a car crash in 1979 when driving back from Sydney where his son Greg had played for a Victorian representative team. As a mark of respect, the Victorian Soccer Federation named the under 16 State Junior Cup competition in his honour. In 1978, Box Hill’s under 16 team had won the competition with Greg McLeod playing a starring role. In 1979, Box Hill again made the final, a match played a few months after Ian’s death, but fell to a valiant defeat to South Melbourne Hellas. Greg McLeod presented the Ian McLeod Trophy to the South Melbourne team in a manner that would have made his father proud of him.