Where and how did it all begin? Well: from little things big things grow.
In the mid 1950’s a man by the name of Harold ‘Steve’ Stevens sowed the seed.
Harold Stevens was a very community minded individual and later became a councilor and subsequently a mayor of the then City of Moorabbin.
‘Steve’ as he was known took it upon himself to establish a gymnasium for local boys.
This humble gym was housed in a church hall in a suburb which no longer officially exists – Ormond East
The church hall belonged to the St Anne’s parish and was situated in Moylan Street, just off Tucker Road.
Steve established the gym specifically for boys aged between 9 – 12 years of age.
But such was the popularity of Steve’s gym that it was not long before he was looking for another project through which he could provide local boys with a safe and healthy outlet. Steve decided to form a football team. It would be overstating things to say that Steve formed a football club, as he literally had just one team. He called the team St Anne’s and eventually named the growing entity the St Anne’s Boys Football Club’.
Tonight let’s wander through the decades that have since followed and briefly track the ups and downs of a mighty organization.
St Anne’s as we will simply call it joined the Bentleigh McKinnon Youth Centre junior football competition in the very early 1960’s. The Bentleigh McKinnon Youth Centre footy league had just three divisions, namely Under 11, Under 13 and Under 15.
In their first season St Anne’s competed in the Under 11 competition. (To this day we believe there are a few 60 year old men walking the streets of Ormond who played in that team).
St Anne’s quickly demonstrated its potential on the field, acquitting itself admirably in its first two seasons. But 1962 was particularly memorable as this was the year that the team won its first ever premiership. Our records tell us that this was the U11 premiership so the club had either grown or the original debutants in 1959 were very young to be playing U11 footy then. The fact the St Anne’s second premiership in season 1964 was also won by its U11 team makes one wonder how young the original playing group might have been!
In the 60’s the club played its home matches at a variety of grounds including King George Reserve in East Boundary Road, McKinnon Oval in Tucker Road and Bailey Reserve also in East Boundary Road.
From what the records tell us the 60’s was an exciting period for the club as it was during this time that the club not only laid its foundations but also cemented its place as a permanent fixture in local junior football growing to field a full complement of three teams.
The upbeat optimism that was around the club in the 1960’s seems to have dissipated in the 1970’s. Let us simply say that the 70’s was a barren decade for the Ormond Blues. A quick glance at the various annual reports from that decade underscores this.
Success on the field largely eluded the club. Parent support appears to have dwindled in this time and there appears to have been a pall of gloom about the club.
Coaching positions were often unfilled, Team Managers were thin on the ground and only the work of a dedicated few held it together.
The decade began with OBFC fielding three teams, U13, U15 and U17 and it ended with the club still fielding just these three teams. There had been no growth or expansion in ten years. Things were generally pretty stagnant.
The 70’s was also a period of change for the BMYC League as it was during the latter part of the decade that the St Kilda Junior Football League was established. Gradually BMYC clubs began to weigh up their options in terms of whether their interests were best served by remaining with the BMYC or by perhaps joining this other league.
The club limped in to the 1980’s still struggling, in particular, to overcome parental apathy. The annual reports from this decade leave you in no doubt that this lack of parental assistance around the club had only worsened.
However added to this was the scarcity of people willing to put their hand up and take on roles such as coach, team manager and committee member.
Take 1983 as a good example:
In 1983 President Cedric Keane – a Life Member of the club – wrote in the Annual Report that this season had been the most testing in all of his eighteen years with the club. He reflected that the season had begun with no secretary, no treasurer, three vacant committee positions, no Under 11 coach, no under 13 coach, no U13 team manager and no under 15 team manager!
As is always the case in situations such as this, the tireless efforts of a few keep things going and 1983 was no exception. Eventually Cedric Keane found people for all positions apart from the U13 coaching and team manager positions. Finally a reluctant ex player, Wayne Morris emerged from the woodwork to take on the U13 coaching role. Then, as though he did not have enough to do as President, Cedric Keane, came to the rescue and agreed to fill the vacant role of Team Manager.
With only ten players with which to form a team it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Under 13’s of 1983. The task only got harder when coach Wayne Morris was transferred in his job halfway through the season and had to resign as coach!
Testing the resilience of the handful of parents still interested, the team battled on and a father, Robbie Burns stepped up to coach the team for the remainder of the season while another parent, Jeff Tate, was specifically acknowledged in the annual report for holding the whole unit together. Where would clubs be without people of this caliber?
Not surprisingly, the war cry went out at the start of season 1984 and a new slogan was adopted by the club: ‘We can do it if you can’.
And we can happily report that things did improve a little in 1984. However 1985 was the real turning point for the club being the most significant year for the club since its inaugural year.
1985 – The renaissance
Three major developments crystallized in this one season.
Firstly, The Bentleigh McKinnon Football League decided to formally move to Sunday fixtures. This significant change was adopted following representations form the clubs that it was getting harder to maintain parental support. Without the necessary support of parents and friends, then as now, clubs were simply not sustainable. For reasons not entirely clear, Sunday was seen as a better option in terms of harvesting parent involvement.
In truth, Sunday footy had been trialed by the BMYC league since 1982 but until 1985 games had been played on both Saturdays and Sundays. It was in 1985 that the entire fixture moved to Sundays.
Secondly, all three teams made the finals. This had never happened before in the history of the club. While the U13’s and U15’s fell short of winning their respective premierships, the Under 11’s took out the flag for the third time. In short this had been the most successful year ever for the club when measured in terms of on field success.
The third and most profound change that occurred in 1985 was the trial of a formal alliance between the Ormond Blues Football Club and the Ormond Amateur Football Club. Each club saw a relationship with the other as vital to its long term viability. It was agreed to trial a closer working relationship for season 1985 and to review the success of this at the end of the year.
It was agreed for the sake of this ‘experiment’ that the junior club would manage all teams from Under 15’s down while the senior club would take control of Under 16’s and up.
The affiliation between our two great clubs also meant that we as a junior club had a new home; EE Gunn Reserve. And did we make use of it?
The Annual Report for 1985 records that the pie nights were bigger and better than ever in the new clubrooms, the jumper presentations actually attracted the interest of parents and were professional, classy affairs.
By the end of season 1985 it was agreed by both clubs that the trial affiliation had been a very positive development and that both parties should commit to a long term relationship with one another.
With the benefits of a supportive senior club the junior club was thereafter able to invest in its younger age groups. 1986 was the year, for instance when we first introduced an Under 10 side playing under modified rules such as we are accustomed to today.
1985, give or take a year or two, was also memorable for two other changes which have had a lasting impact.
It was then that the words to our club theme song changed. You all know the current words, but did any of you know that there was an earlier version the words sung to same tune? It went like this:
We’re a grand old Club
Everyone knows “The Blues”,
Wearing O-B’s for me and for you,
What is there to compare, in the things we share,
With the club that is all “True Blue”
We’re a grand Old Club,
We’ve got pride in our teams
You can join us if you choose
We’re here to win our coach will shout
Keep your eyes on the Ormond Blue
The other lasting change that occurred in the mid 80’s involved our jumper. Until then the club colours had been navy blue and white, much like a Carlton jumper even down to a white monogram in the centre.
The affiliation with our senior club prompted the junior committee at the time to change jumper and adopt the same design as the senior club which is of-course our design to this day. And in case you weren’t aware the current design is based on the colours of the xxxxxth battalion from the second world war. So every time our boys pull on an Ormond jumper they are commemorating the efforts of that battalion.
The new millennium
Since 2000 the club has again gone through a period of growth. This can be attributed to a variety of factors not least of which is that the Ormond district itself has undergone a period of renewal with young families replacing older families and bringing a new market of potential junior footballers to our area.
The efforts of several people who are still around the club to invigorate the Ormond Auskick program should also be acknowledged as one of the key reasons for our growth in the current decade.
As I close let me point out to you something that is truly remarkable:
In season 2009 we estimate that Ormond Junior Football Club past its 5000th match!
Simple mathematics tells us the Ormond jumper has been worn more than 100,000 times in matches! A staggering achievement for a club that started in a humble church hall in a side street in Ormond East.
We owe it to Cedric Keane and the many, many others like him to keep the flame burning brightly. And we certainly owe it to the children of the Ormond district to never lose the vision that these Ormond pioneers must surely have had.
All these years later, to some of us we are still the Ormond Blues. To some we are the Monders.
But we can all say for sure that We are Ormond!