RIP Jeff Tozer

Former Melville AFC coach and first team player Jeff Tozer has died after battling motor neuron disease.

While Tozer was most notably associated with the Ngaruawahia United club, and particularly its founding club, Affco Rangers (Horotiu) over a long playing career, he was also player-coach for Melville AFC in 1989. He then assisted Brian Coe in his first season as Melville coach the following year.

Never one to shirk responsibility, Tozer also coached the Melville women in 1990.

Another former Melville coach, club life member Steve Williams, paid tribute to Tozer.

“Jeff was the reason I came to Melville in 1990,” said Williams, who had earlier played alongside Tozer at Ngaruawahia for a number of seasons. (Williams ended up coaching Melville for 21 seasons so Tozer brought full value for his two seasons at Gower Park.)

“Jeff was a 100-per-cent kind of bloke, a rum-and-coke guy, a gym monster, and always super fit.

“He was a tough guy who wore his heart on his sleeve. If he shook your hand, you knew he meant it. He was not a fabricator or a bull-shitter. Right or wrong, he always meant what he said.

“Jeff always got stuck in, and would usually do it for free as well.”

Tozer had an enduring career as a tall, lean, no-nonsense striker with an imposing moustache. He was a member of the Affco Rangers club (which later merged with Ngaruawahia) that debuted in the northern league in 1972 and was again a starting XI player when Affco won the northern league fourth division the following year.

By 1976 Tozer had graduated to taking over as Affco coach mid-season, while also performing Herculean tasks in a struggling team. He finished the season as his team’s top goal scorer (2 goals) in the northern league that campaign.

By the time he joined Melville in 1989 Tozer already had 18 seasons of northern league under his belt.

“He was one of the originals,” Williams said. “Jeff was loyal to football throughout and in those very early years was as big as anybody in the game in the Waikato.”

Tozer later drifted back to his spiritual home of Ngaruawahia, though in recent years also coached at Huntly Thistle.

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