NORTH Albury Football Club’s debt crisis was largely solved last night when Albury businessman Allan Endresz pledged to wipe out money owed to players.
The Hoppers’ “White Knight” promised to cover the $72,000 shortfall within a fortnight in a major boost to the cash-strapped club.
Mr Endresz’s company Ezybonds is already one of the Hoppers’ biggest sponsors and employs coach Jason Akermanis, who will remain in the top job.
The club’s total debt of $123,000 was confirmed at a sometimes fiery annual meeting which had been postponed from late last year.
As expected, solicitor Mark Cronin replaced Paul Spencer as president and he will be supported by a larger committee than last season.
In a further boost, the Hoppers have been able to secure a replacement major sponsor for Crusader Caravans, with local business DLG Aluminium and Glazing agreeing to come on board for the next two years.
Mr Endresz said he was motivated to step forward in the club’s hour of need due to the positive experience his son Matthew had as a player in underage ranks at the club.
“In the last few months as things became apparent what was happening at the club it looked like we (Ezybonds) had to step up,” he said.
He also revealed today was the 15-year anniversary of his long-running and still-unresolved court case with the federal government.
“That action and court case has nothing to do with what we do with North Albury,” he said.
“We have had out of court settlement offers, which are significant, but we have rejected them.”
The Hoppers’ player payments shortfall flared when the players broke up from pre-season training before Christmas.
The Endresz pledge could be a circuit-breaker in convincing senior players including Daniel Leslie, Matt McDonald and Adam Prior to remain with the club.
“We shouldn’t be holding a grudge against those guys who want to move,” Mr Endresz said.
“It is up to us to look back and say we didn’t pay them.
“A lot of people are unhappy with press reports players are leaving, but those guys have been good players for the many years they have been here.”
Prior attended the annual meeting last night along with teammate Andrew Thompson.
During the meeting Prior clarified the events surrounding his return to North Albury last year from WAFL club East Perth by revealing he personally paid a large percentage of a $15,000 transfer fee.
Akermanis took charge of pre-season training before also attending.
One of the club’s other biggest debts was with the Ovens and Murray Football-Netball League for $12,300, and talks will be held in coming days about starting a repayment plan.
Mr Cronin was president when the club won its last O and M premiership in 2002.
“There have been a lot of questions asked tonight and I expect the next 100 questions to me over the next week will be what can I or we do for the footy club,” he said.
“We’ve got to get off our backsides and show the passion which has been shown in this room tonight.
“When it is the dead of winter and we are up at Myrtleford and we are running second last in the competition, perish the thought, we don’t want seven people from North Albury, we want 300.
“Perhaps we’ve taken the eye off the ball and certainly we did projections that weren’t realised.
“But we will solve the debt and we will solve that fairly quickly.”
Mr Cronin will be supported by vice-presidents Paula Cary and Scott Mackie, secretary Graham Willcox, treasurer Brian Crichton and other general committee members.