Aberfeldie Football Club first entered competitive teams in the Essendon District Football League in 1948. (Our cricketers pre-date the club history, having first entered a competition known as the Northern District Progress Cricket Association in 1928.) Life Member Gary Wicking, a former player and now club historian, has conducted extensive research over the last few years through various libraries, poring over old local newspapers both in print and archived on microfiche film and has uncovered evidence that an earlier version of the club may have existed as far back as 1893 but this does not concur with our club’s auspicious beginnings that are well documented.
Known as ‘The Gorillas’, the football team wore a navy blue guernsey with an ACC monogram in reference to the Aberfeldie Community Centre. The first team to represent the club was an Under 17 side which first took to the field in 1948, later winning the club’s inaugural first premiership in 1951. 1950 saw the introduction of the first open age side in the B-Grade competition, which subsequently took out the premiership in 1953. For the sake of accuracy, records indicate that the club’s home ground, Clifton Park, was offically opened at a public ceremony on May 19, 1951 (60 Years in 2011).
The 1960s saw the club expand to field sides in Open Age, Reserves, Under 17,15 and 13, with the only premiership won by the Under 17s in 1966. 1971 marked the beginning of the most successful period in the club’s history with the introduction of the Under 9 and 11 sides. The Under 11s, coached by former Essendon ‘great’, the late Stan Booth and the Under 9s, under the guidance of men such as Brian Donohoe, between them won eight premierships during the period 1971-1977. During this period additional flags were won by the Under 15s (two) and the A-Reserves (two).
After finishing second last in 1973, the A-Grade side recruited diligently and under coach David Collins found ultimate success with the A-Grade premiership in 1974 an achievement yet to be repeated at senior level, albeit we did play off in grand final matches in the 2001 and 2002 seasons. It is no coincidence that in the pantheon of the club’s rich history, this was also the year Abers became known as the Aberfeldie Sports Club, wholly incorporating both football and cricket at the club. Several grand final appearances followed without success before relegation to B-Grade in 1979. EDFL stalwart Kevin Beardsley, took on the mantle of coach in 1980. After being runners up in 1980 and 1981, success and a return to A-Grade was realised in 1982. The rest of the 1980s was relatively successful with the junior sides performing at their best.
There was a genuine move forward in our performance standard in the 1990s which were full of ups and downs as was the outlook for that particular period of time. Finally success again came our way when the seniors, under the direction of playing coach John Ford, won the B-Grade Grand Final in 1995 (losing only one game all season), which then propelled us back into the A-Grade competition where we felt we deserved to belong.
After many years, the club’s well known jumper of the light blue colour with a navy blue yoke, was retired at the end of the 1999 season. The new strip, featuring the light sky blue with a navy blue flash down the front panel and both colours in halves on the rear panel was unveiled amid some controversy in 2000 when it was adopted. Purists preferred the old strip, but in keeping with modern times, the club’s new look was certainly fresh and appealing. In the succeeding years the entire junior section from Under 16s downwards also received the new strip, and although there has been some inadvertent mismatching of colours by the manufacturers (the junior version’s light blue was considerably darker than it should be), the ‘Two Blues’ jumper was still immediately recognisable. On the occasion of Clifton Park’s 50th Anniversary in 2011, the senior teams wore a one-off replica of the original strip which was very well received to the point that the senior football section decided to return to its familiar brand of the light blue jumper and navy blue yoke in 2012, retiring the flash strip permanently which had been in use since 2000. In 2013, the junior football section followed the seniors and rolled out the classic strip as well.
A request to the Senior Football committee at the end of 2007 (initiated by player Mark Williams) resulted in the unanimous adoption from both the junior and senior sections to do away with the old navy blue socks, replacing them with a new “hooped” design in the club colours which was first unveiled at the start of the 2008 playing season and has been used ever since.
On the playing front, over the years we have produced many fine players with EDFL B&F winners in all grades including, Ken Priestley (1964), Phil Squires (1984), both A-Grade players, and fomer Richmond Football Club President Clinton Casey (1980, 1981, and 1982) in B-Grade. Many players went on to represent VFL clubs at Under 19 and Reserves levels the most notable being Bob Shearman, our 1955 Under 17s Captain and EDFL B&F winner, who represented Essendon in the Seniors before becoming somewhat of a legend in the SANFL, where he became Captain/Coach of the first S.A. side to defeat Victoria at the MCG. Jeff Gamble was also a famous local recruit to the Essendon Football Club. Appointments to the AFL of previous Abers players in the most recent years have included Jude Bolton (Sydney Swans), Scott Howard (Essendon) and Kristian DePasquale (Richmond). The most talked about addition was our own Brock McLean – taken at No.5 in the National Draft at the end of 2003 – now with Carlton Football Club. In 2006, Jesse Smith was recruited to the Kangaroos Football Club under the father/son rule; Ross Smith being Jesse’s father. Darcy Daniher (son of Anthony and the great Daniher family dynasty) was recruited to the Essendon Football Club in 2007 but resigned in 2011 due to recurring injuries. The latest acquisition is Joshua Toy who was recuited by the Gold Coast Suns, being drafted as an Under 17 player in 2010. Sadly Josh was let go and returned to the ranks of the Essendon VFL, and was thus available to us for many games in 2013 and 2014. In 2015 he committed fully to the club and is now an integral component of our senior team.
The Senior Football Sub-committee has increased steadily in numbers and the added strength has been reflected by gains in on-field performance. Having said that, there was still room for improvement and we as a committee recognised this first and foremost. After the resignation of Mal Michael at the end of Season 2014 following two previous Grand Final losses, Adam Potter was appointed coach for Season 2015. The senior team won all matches in the competition during the year and ended a 41-year drought by winning the Grand Final against Greenvale with an emphatic 76 point win.
The Reserves fared much better following on as Premiers from 2009. In 2013 they were practically the benchmark of the competition and made their respective grand finals, and were well in front at half time by 41 points but Greenvale’s determination saw them wrestle the lead and ultimately the outcome, knocking them out of another Premiership win. As Season 2015 rolled along, under new coach Luke Kinniburgh, the team again made it to Finals but were outdone yet again in the Semi Final. As always, we will learn from these experiences. We have shown we can consistently match it with the top sides and will use that as the impetus to hopefully go one better in Season 2016.
The club also worked very hard to create a second Reserves side to cater for the many players wishing to join the ranks of the club. Christened the Thirds competition, the club was happy to appoint Brian Pound in the role of coach. Whilst the side remained as competitive as possible, it did not win many games and was thus not able to enter into a finals campaign. Moving forward, it is the club’s fervent hope to continue providing young men with an opportunity to play football.
In the last decade, the Under 18’s have been a revelation not only for their performance on the field, but they cemented themselves as the true stepping stone and future of Aberfeldie Football with a brilliant and much deserved fifth consecutive Grand Final win in 2004, which is an outstanding achievement at any level. After a couple of uneventful years and then settling in with their new coaching staff and bonding together as a team, the players found out that after a disappointing 2007 season, they had what it takes to go all the way and sealed a successful 2008 season with yet another Grand Final win. Success for the team did not eventuate again until 2012 and they enjoyed a dream run, winning five consecutive premierships at U18 level up to 2016.
2015 saw the emergence of a super senior team, who as noted earlier, won the elusive premiership we had long been craving for. Premiers and Champions — a terrific accolade to remember for generations to come. In 2016 our hopes were dashed when the Seniors were defeated in the Grand Final by Keilor. Make no mistake, we feel the professionalism and performance of the club now continues from a point of Premier Division triumph to progressing with a sustained and sound base of players with a glowing promise for future success. This includes nurturing all of the talented youngsters making the graduation from U18s (re-graded to Under 19.5 from 2017 onwards) to Senior football as we strive for further glory in the Essendon District Football League, which of course we are proud to be associated with.
2017 was in a sense a year we had to prove to ourselves that 2015 was no fluke. To that end it was fantastic that all four age divisions made it to their respective Grand Finals. Unfortunately the lower three teams lost but the Senior team was victorious, beating Greenvale to take home the 2017 silverware!
The blending of youth and experienced players is still our primary undertaking and it is with this in mind that we look forward to Season 2018 with great anticipation for some great times ahead and the fact that 2018 will be a sensational year for Aberfeldie as we celebrate the club’s 70th Anniversary since its 1948 inception.
Senior Football Secretary.