June - Club Victoria Inc.
Much tocheer aboutWhile the St Kilda FC is one of the highest profile Victorianclubs, its long history is also one of the most interesting. Inits 140th birthday year we take a look back at one of Victoria’soldest and most famous clubs.The football team we all now know as the Saints started life on WednesdayApril 2 1873 at Young’s Hotel in St Kilda, with the Hon I J J Casey MLAassuming Presidency of the new St Kilda Football Club. The club wasbased on a loose alliance between St Kilda Cricket Club players andformer players of the South Yarra Football Club which had disbandedthe year prior, its first official match was played against Carlton not longafter and its first matches were held at grounds near the St Kilda RailwayStation known as Alpaca Paddock (named after a failed alpaca farm).Its 140 year history had a rocky start and was perhaps a sign of things tocome , while it was a foundation member of the VFA in 1877, in 1879the club failed to show up for a match against Essendon and from thatpoint reverted to only fielding a junior team. After rebuilding the club itre-joined the VFA in 1886, and though it initially struggled on-field, aftera merger/takeover of Prahran Football Club some marginal improvementwas seen and the club strengthened as an overall entity.It was at this point in 1896 that St Kilda was unanimously invited to jointhe new breakaway VFL competition (later to become the AFL) with 7other clubs, to start in 1897. As a foundation member of what was tobecome Australia’s biggest sporting league, it was the move that securedthe club in the hearts and minds of Victorians. While their on-fieldrecord thus far would not have them suited to the new elite and moreprofessional competition, its facilities at the Junction Oval and locationas one of only two clubs to the south of Melbourne gave some foresightto the potential growth the club could achieve. This played out only toopainfully in the early years of the VFL, the club won the wooden spoonfor last position in each of its first 6 seasons in the new league. Not onlywere they finishing last but they did not register a solitary win in their firstthree seasons, the club had to wait until Round 1 1900 when it defeatedMelbourne by 1 point to celebrate its first victory. The 1 point margin wasperhaps an omen for the club’s biggest triumph some 66 years later.Already the club was gaining a reputation of having some of the mostbrilliant footballers in the land among its ranks, if not necessarilymatching that brilliance with team results, champions such as DaveMcNamara, Vic Cumberland and Roy Cazaly playing for the club in thenext few decades. An interesting sidenote to this was the club changingits colours for a season in 1915 to Red, Black and Yellow. This was seen asa move of patriotism during World War 1 to disassociate itself with theGerman flag colours of the time (interestingly the St Kilda Cricket Clubnever changed back and carry the Yellow instead of white today). Theclub had to wait until 1939 for its first Finals victory but it wasn’t until the1960s that St Kilda finally threw off its perennial easy-beat tag as it alsoundertook major changes off the field.Like the majority of VFL clubs that had originally formed in theshadow of earlier established cricket clubs, St Kilda, despite attractinga membership base, attendance and revenue generation that dwarfedits cricket counterpart was handicapped by the fact that the cricket clubremained the ground managers of the Junction Oval. This meant thatmuch of the revenue that the Football Club could claim to be its ownvia its matches was assumed by the ground managers-the cricket club.As commercial realties took hold of VFL football in the 1960s the cubdecided it needed to look at other options and eventually brokered a dealwith the Moorabbin Council to move the club to the suburb of Moorabbinand Moorabbin Oval in 1965, with the carrot being a greater financialreturn from its matches while also gaining a greater access for supportfrom the growing southern suburbs. The original conditions of the dealwere that club would become the St.Kilda-Moorabbin Football Cluband after a period of ten years revert to being known just as MoorabbinFootball Club. This was quickly taken off the table once it was discoveredthat a long-forgotten part of the of the club’s constitution drafted in the1880s at the time of the takeover of Prahran required 3 quarters of theclub’s membership to approve any name change.The move to Moorabbin coincided with the rise of the club as an onfieldpower and culminated with its only VFL/AFL Premiership in 1966.Under the coaching of Allan Jeans and with legendary players such asDarrel Baldock, Ian Stewart and Carl Ditterich the club made its firstGrand Final in 1965, losing to Essendon. When it reached the GrandFinal again the following year, despite missing Ditterich with suspension,it went one better defeating Collingwood by just one point in one of themost famous, and surely the most romantic, Grand Finals ever played.Finally after 89 years of existence the club had tasted the ultimate success.The club remained a competitive team through the next decade buteventually financial difficulty hit the club and by the dawn of the 1980sthe club was forced to enter into a scheme of payment to creditors(including many players) of 22.5 cents in the dollar to keep the clubalive. This coincided with a downturn in playing fortunes and the
facilities at Moorabbin, again St Kilda was an easy-beat, in fact perhapsthe clubs greatest success if not financially at this time was its notoriousand legendary disco at the social club after matches that attracted hugenumbers.Through all this the club survived, moving its home matches to WaverleyPark in 1993 and forging a place in the new national AFL competition.Despite its lack of success during the 80s, as the 90s came it againconsistently showcased some of the most brilliant footballers in Australia,Tony Lockett, Nicky Winmar, Robert Harvey, Stewart Loewe and manymore making the Saints one of the most attractive teams to watch.A Premiership was narrowly missed in 1997 when the club was upset bythe Adelaide Crows in the Grand Final, however the club rebuilt againduring the 2000s, moving matches to Docklands Stadium and eventuallymoving its operations to Seaford. This has coincided with the mostsustained successful period for the club perhaps ever, while not gainingthat elusive second premiership, it has come painfully close twice (losingthe 2009 Grand Final narrowly to Geelong and then drawing in 2010against Collingwood before being well beaten in the replay) and been aregular finals participant while also exhibiting stable financial results andconsistent profitability. The club still however has continued its traditionof housing some of the greats of the game in recent times, players likeRiewoldt, Hayes and Goddard thrilling its growing membership base.The St Kilda FC remains 140 years after their birth a club that inspiresand brings together its large membership base like not many others can.Founded in 1873, the St Kilda Football Club played its first evermatch against Carlton in the Victorian Amateur Football Association.Twenty four years later, the Victorian Football League (VFL) wasformed. To mark this significant milestone, the Saints will celebratewith several initiatives throughout the year, including donning aheritage guernsey featuring the names of every player to have wornthe red, white and black since 1897 against the Blues in round seven.St Kilda is one of the six foundation VFL clubs that still exist in itsoriginal form. While other clubs have merged, folded and expanded,the Saints possess 140 years of rich history.St Kilda has played in eight grand finals and won one premiership, in1966. The club has competed in finals on 26 occasions, including fourconsecutive years from 2008-2011.Eight players have won the Brownlow Medal while playing for theSaints, with Ian Stewart (1965 and 66) and Robert Harvey (1997 and98) the only two to win the award in consecutive years.Members and supporters will have a once in a lifetime chance to ownthis replica of the Club’s first ever guernsey featuring the names of1551 past and present Saints players.The guernsey is among several commemorative merchandise itemsthat have been created to honour St Kilda’s 140 year history and itsvalues of strength and loyalty with the 2013 Members’ scarf featuringa unique 140 year logo.To commemorate the occasion, club historian Russell Holmesby haswritten ‘Strength Through Loyalty – The Saints at Moorabbin andBeyond’, which recounts the fascinating story of the club over thepast half a century since movingfrom its Junction Oval base at theend of 1964.Following the ground-breaking move of the Club’s headquarters toMoorabbin, the book tracks St Kilda’s rise to a premiership in 1966 tothe perilous depths of the mid 1980’s and the more recent accoladesof competing for a second flag.Told through the eyes of players, coaches and officials, the bookexamines the drama and delights that have enthralled Saints’ fansover their lifetime, revealing never-before-seen images and analysisof the Saints.