Ormond Amateur Football Club – A Short History
The Ormond Amateur Football Club was founded early in the Great Depression, when businessman Les Smith decided that local young people needed a constructive way to channel their energies in difficult times.
Smith owned a newsagency on the corner of North Road and Newham Grove in Ormond, which was where a lot of the planning was done to establish the club. The original nucleus of founders included Cec Hattam, Mick Hassett, Peter Dawson and “Doc” Porter.
At the beginning of the 1930s, Smith approached a friend – Councillor Ernie Gunn – to prevail on the local council for a grant of land. Gunn arranged this, and in 1931 our great Club was born.
Smith’s regimental colours from World War One – brown and blue – were chosen as our Club colours.
According to Betty MacGregor, Smith’s daughter,
“…the first function the club had was an afternoon fancy dress party to raise funds. I would have been seven or eight. Everyone met outside the newsagency. Dad came out dressed as a policeman, then they were on their way amid great hilarity – marching down Newham Grove to the ground, where they had a function to celebrate the birth of the club.”
The Early Years
Our first game was played in D Section of the Metropolitan Amateur Football League (as it was then known) in April 1932.
Things did not get off to the best start, with four losses in our first five games. After that we recovered well, and ended up only narrowly missing the finals.
The inspiration behind the marked change in fortune was mcnamarad1football legend Dave McNamara, formerly of St Kilda and Essendon, who took over the coaching reins a couple of months into the season. As it had been almost a decade since his final VFL game, McNamara managed to acquire reinstatement as an amateur, enabling him to function as a playing-coach. News that he planned to do this captured the headlines, and during our early days in the VAFA the team regularly played in front of crowds of several thousand.
Our progression through the grades got underway in earnest in 1933, when we won the D Section Grand Final by 3 goals from North Melbourne Christian Brothers College Old Boys. One of the early stars – Clay Crook – kicked an amazing 16 goals against Hampton Rovers during the 1933 season.
We continued our march up the grades with a hard fought 10 point win in the 1934 C Section Grand Final, again triumphing over North Melbourne CBCOB. In 1935 we went close to another Grand Final, finishing third after a final loss to University Blues, but this proved to be a temporary blip, with another Grand Final appearance in 1936, this time against Ivanhoe.
Although the result did not go our way, losing by 37 points, the outcome still meant promotion to A Grade, only five years after we were formed. While some might have expected that our stay in A Grade would be short-lived, we proved that we belonged with the competition’s elite, appearing in the Grand Final in 1937 (a year in which the great Bob Flegg kicked 130 goals) and again in 1939. 1937 was also the year in which the iconic brick pavilion at E.E. Gunn Reserve was constructed.
The competition was suspended in 1940 due to the onset of World War II, but in our first eight years we had made the finals seven times, for five grand finals and two premierships.
The Post War Years
The Amateur competition recommenced in 1946 after the War ended, and we quickly picked up where we left off.
We made the Grand Final in 1947 and 1949, unfortunately losing to Uni Blacks on both occasions, before turning the tide and getting over the Blacks in 1950. The match was a close affair, with forward Jack Boland marking just before the siren and kicking a goal to seal the victory by 4 points. The win was just reward for our dominance during the season, which saw us lose only one match. Our Junior club also won its first premiership in 1950, and we had three state representatives and our first All Australian – Jack Stock.
We made the Grand Final again in 1951 and 1952 – making it five in six years – but again could not take the final step. A five point loss to Hampton in 1951 was followed by a 57 point loss to Uni Blues in 1952…a remarkable result considering we had more scoring shots, but the Blues kicked an incredible 20.1.121.
In 1953 and 1954 we made the finals, and returned to top form in 1955, at one stage winning 15 consecutive matches, before another Grand Final appearance against Old Melburnians. Unfortunately the result was not in our favour, and we went down by 36 points.
Between 1956 and 1962, we remained in A Section but failed to make the finals in any year, our worst stretch since our formation. In 1962, we experienced our worst ever start to a season, losing 11 of the first 12 games. We were able to turn things around, though, winning the final four games and staving off relegation by a mere 5%.
It was not all bad news for the Club, though, as the Reserves and Juniors experienced continued success during this time. The Juniors won three premierships in the 1950s, and after commencing in 1960, the Reserves won the Grand Final in 1961 after losing in 1960.
In 1963, after seven years in the final wilderness, we made another Grand Final against Old Paradians, but it was a familiar result as we went down by 16 points…our 8th time as runners up in A Grade.
The respite was short lived, however, as we finished 2nd last in 1964 to be relegated for the first time in our history after 22 seasons in A Grade. The result was not helped by the fact that we had three wins taken off us after the discovery of an incorrectly completed player permit.
The Rebuilding Phase
Our stint in B Grade lasted four years. Although this was three years longer than anyone had hoped, after three preliminary final losses in 1965, 1966 and 1967, it was with great pleasure (and relief) that everyone at the Club got to experience premiership success in 1968.
In our first year back in A Grade in 1969, we made the Grand Final only to lose to Coburg. Amazingly, the Reserves played in its 10th consecutive Grand Final in 1969, winning six of those encounters, and the Under 19s won their 7th Premiership in 1969.
The side would go on to dominate amateur football in the early 1970s winning three consecutive A Section premierships from 1971 to 1973, as well as finishing runner-up in 1974. A key reason for this success was the introduction, in the mid-1960s, of a number of junior grades – Under 13s, Under 15s and Under 17s – which produced eventual senior players like Bruce Bourne, Rob Cameron and Ron Jenkins, who were the nucleus of the premiership-winning combinations.
Coached by Ted Farrell, other great players of this era included Ian Cameron, captain of the 1971 and 1972 flag winning sides, Roger Wood, who succeeded him in 1973, Kevin Ladd, Terry Crumpton and Alan Naylor. 1973 was perhaps our most successful year ever, with the Seniors, Reserves, Under 19s and Under 17s all tasting Grand Final success.
The Reserves team continued their remarkable success during this period, winning the Grand Final in 1970 and 1973, and finishing 3rd in 1971 and 1972.
In 1974 we again reached the Grand Final, but unfortunately could not replicate the success of the past three seasons, going down to Uni Blacks by 14 points.
In 1975, the Seniors missed the finals for the first time since 1964, and the Reserves missed the finals for the first time since 1960 (the year they were formed)!
The Glory Years
Between 1976 and 1983, we made the finals in four years, but it was not until 1984, under the astute coaching of Mike McArthur-Allen, that we reached another grand final. De La Salle proved too strong on that occasion, but we would achieve revenge in the 1985 grand final, triumphing by 15 points.
After enduring a slight premiership hangover the following year, dropping to fourth, we returned in 1987 to commence what would turn out to be our greatest ever period of dominance. The 1987 and 1988 premierships saw us triumph over Old Xaverians by 17 and 36 points respectively. We followed this with a comprehensive 48-point victory over Collegians in 1989, before perhaps the greatest victory in 1990.
At half time in the match against Collegians, we led by a solitary point. Most people felt that Collegians would take control in the third quarter, but quite the opposite transpired as we kicked five unanswered goals to take a 35-point advantage into the final break.
The last term was a dour struggle as Collegians piled on the pressure in an effort to peg back the margin. We defended resolutely and at the final siren, the Elsternwick Park scoreboard showed a 7-point win, 14.12 (96) to 12.17 (89).
Among a swag of fine players for Ormond during this era were Russell Barnes (skipper 1985 to 1989), Andrew Jobling, Paul Schuhkraft, Mark McDonald, who fought off injury to be a major part of the 1990 grand final victory, and Phil Kingston.
The Gradual Decline
After experiencing finals and premiership success at regular intervals during the 1970s and 1980s, few would have foreseen the decline in our fortunes during the 1990s and 2000s.
The post-1990 period saw some success, with finals appearances in 1991 and 1995, but as the decade wore on, it became clear that the glory years were behind us, and a new reality had set in. The first sign of this decline was our relegation to B Grade after the 1996 season. This ended a 28-year stretch in A Grade, during which time we won eight premierships and appeared in the finals an amazing 20 times.
We made the finals in our first year in B Grade, finishing fourth under the guidance of former Melbourne VFL star Greg Healy. However, in the ensuing years our focus was more on avoiding relegation rather than fighting for finals. We were able to hold our place in B Grade until 2002, several times on the back of stirring late season wins against finals aspirants, but in 2002, we were again relegated.
The year 2003 represented possibly our lowest point since our formation, finishing last and experiencing relegation again. This meant that we would play in D Grade in 2004, the first time that we had played in that grade in over 70 years.
Stopping the Slide
2004 marked a turning point for the Club. A massive recruitment effort prior to the season saw an amazing influx of new players, and the results started to turn around early in the season. Come August and we were back in finals action for the first time in seven years, narrowly losing to Fitzroy Reds in the Elimination Final by three points. Although the loss was heartbreaking, we had a high level of confidence going into the 2005 season that success was not far away.
The 2005 season turned into a race in two, where we battled Fitzroy Reds for supremacy throughout the year. We finished second and, after a loss in the Second Semi Final, won our Preliminary Final against Prahran to earn promotion back to C Section in 2006. Unfortunately Fitzroy were far too good in the Grand Final, but it was pleasing to finally see some real progress after such a sustained period without success.
The next two years saw us play finals in C Grade in 2006 and finish fifth in 2007, before we finally experienced premiership glory in 2008 – a gap of 18 years since our last premiership. After finishing second behind Hampton after the home and away rounds, we overcame them in the Second Semi Final in a tight encounter at the Junction Oval. This gave us the valuable week off to recuperate, and this showed on Grand Final day.
On a terrible windy day at Sandringham, we were able to score more heavily into the breeze in the first and third quarters, and take full advantage in the second and fourth quarters, to run out 38-point winners. The win was particularly notable given the winning coach – Russell Barnes – had also captained the 1987, 1988 and 1989 premiership sides.
Since 2008, the Club has experienced the highs and lows of Amateur football, being relegated on three occasions (2009, 2011 and 2014) as well as being promoted in 2013 after a Grand Final loss and in 2018 after winning both Seniors and Reserves Grand Finals.
We look forward to watching the improvement in the coming years, with the hope that further premiership glory is not too far away!
The Club by numbers
Formed in 1931, first season 1932 – We are the 12th oldest club participating in the Amateurs and the second oldest suburban club, and rank 6th in most premierships behind only older serving Clubs.
Colours – Brown and blue, the same since our inception
A Grade – 1950, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990
B Grade – 1968
C Grade – 1934, 2008
D Grade – 1933, 2018
1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1970, 1973, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1998, 2007, 2008, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018
Under 19s Premierships
1950, 1951, 1954, 1956, 1968, 1969, 1973, 1979, 1986, 2005
Big V Legend
Big V Champions
Competition Best and Fairests
A Grade – S Rowe (1947), Laurie Mithen (1953), Dick Fenton-Smith (1955), Max Brook (1957), Bruce Bourne (1974), Phil Mehrten (1986), Matt McConvill (1994, 1995)
B Grade – Matt McConvill (2001)
C Grade – Simon Keleher (2006, 2007)
D Grade – Michael Miller (2004, 2005), Simon Keleher (2005)
U19 Section 3 – Dylan Hamilton (2018)
A Grade – Kevin Ladd (1973), Paul Schuhkraft (1987, 1988, 1990)
B Grade – Greg James (1965, 1966, 1967, 1968)
C Grade – Matt Robbins (2008)
The OAFC would like to thank Simon Keleher for researching and documenting the club history.
The club acknowledges the following sources were used to prepare this history: