I first met Tino in 1995 while he was playing Australian Football for an opposing team – the Broadview Hawks.  He’d grown up with Chris who also played for the Hawks as well.

Chris and I played together for Team Canada on a number of occasions.  Most notably and central to the story of my relationship with Tino when he and I played in a Tour of England at the end of the 1995 season.

What’s interesting is that during that successful tour (yes, be beat England on their home turf) Chris, Helga (Chris’ wife at the time and team manager), and I began talking about forming a new club to help expand the football league.

From these conversations we formed the Toronto Dingos football club to start the 1996 season.  We had a number of players from other clubs join the Dingos including Tino who came over because of his mate Chris.

In his first game with the Dingos Tino kept hitting the goal post whenever he took a shot for goal, thus his nickname became “the postman”.  Yeah, it stuck!

Although our season was up and down, only managing to miss the finals by a game we had an incredibly fun time as a group.

It was the end of year team trip to New York City that cemented the lifelong bond.  ❤️👍🏼

Tino and Zisso were the two people we had to thank that made our trip one to remember.

Zisso had arranged the hotel and the limos from the airport to the hotel, places to eat… he was the perfect cruise director.

However, it was with Tino’s indomitable charm and friendliness we drank with mobsters in Little Italy (thanks Big Mikey), helped talk our way into night clubs in SoHo and even rollerbladed down 57th Avenue in and out of the traffic on our rollerblades to Central Park.

Yeah, it was some sort of adventure!

I’m still close to many of those guys today, and although we’re spread to the four corners of the earth many of us are still in touch all these years later…

After playing another couple of seasons Tino, who is Canadian moved to Perth to raise a family with his Australian wife at the time.

I’d often talked about these halcyon days with Judy, so it an easy to decision to take her to Perth and met Tino.

After our big day at the Margaret River, Cape Leeuwin and Jewel Cave we just had enough time to return to our hotel to freshen up before making out way to Tino’s for his world renowned New York style pizza.

Tino’s Pizza is a family and local neighbourhood hangout that was beyond bustling when we arrived, with a team of ten, taking orders, preparing, and delivering piping hot pizza to its well-established clientele who were literally lined up outside the door.  ❤️

We had walked in and found to our surprise a couple of seats at the area overlooking the prep area, but before we could sit down Tino walked in.  He’d just hand delivered a handful of pizzas to an event just up the street.

First things first, a huge hug for both of us.  ❤️

Nothing had changed from the first day we’d met other than a few grey hairs and a couple of kilograms.  He was his bright, friendly, and buoyant self.  Full of vim and vigour!

We met his son Chase and daughter Bella, although his other two sons weren’t working that night.  We also had the pleasure of meeting his girlfriend, Kristine.

After spoiling us with endless pizza and wings (you have to try the Tino special wings… so good!) we planned to meet up the next day.

The plan was for the four of us to go watch the Australian football game at Optus Stadium so Judy could see her beloved Cats play the West Coast Eagles.

Next day we met up at the Camfield bar and restaurant which is located just a couple of hundred meters from the stadium.  Arriving a little early I secured us a high top table as Judy waited for them just outside.

Unfortunately, Kristine’s son wasn’t feeling well so she was unable to join us.

Tino is an avid Fremantle Dockers fan (an opposing club to the West Coast Eagles) and he was adorned in his Dockers hat and scarf.  Judy was dressed in her Geelong Cats jersey, Tino in his Dockers gear and me with zero affiliation to any of the clubs playing.

I’m sure most people at the game thought it weird that he was dressed like that given they weren’t playing, but that has never stopped Tino from enjoying himself to the max.

As you can imagine we had an awesome afternoon especially since the Cats won handily!

Post-game Tino took us to the nearby Casino, and although terribly underdressed we found a casual place to eat called the Merrywell.

Tino was his exuberant self and telling us about his plans to expand the Tino’s pizza empire over the coming year or so. 👍🏼

As I reflect back on my relationship with Tino I can’t believe it’s been 28 years since we first met.

And although the years have flown by and have been separated by oceans and now a huge landmass (Perth is a 5.5-hour flight from Brisbane) nothing has changed.

He is still my brother in arms and will always be.   Thanks Tino!  ❤️

Until next week