Esperance Football Club celebrates milestone

Celebrations:

The Esperance Football Club toasts to 80 years this season and will host celebrations on Saturday, May 27 for all current and former members.

Proceedings will commence with an early home league game at 2.30 against Ports that day (many thanks to Ports Football Club on agreeing to the fixture change enabling this to take place) which will enable everybody to see our team in action and catch up with old friends.

The night’s proceedings are scheduled to commence at 6.30 and will be an informal affair where everybody can mingle.

There is no entry fee, and plenty of food will be supplied throughout; and of course the bar will be open.

Highlight of the evening will be our inaugural Hall Of Fame induction when 12 of our most respected people will be inducted.

Love to see you all there, but please book by this Monday (22nd ) using any of the following:

Facebook: Esperance Football Club page

Email: jimfinnerty@westnet.com.au or matthew.t@mcson.com.au

Phone: Sue Mutch 0413556218

Club history: 

Established in 1937, The Esperance Football Club, now more commonly known as The Mighty Esperance Bulldogs have always prided themselves on not just having great football teams, but having a great club and environment and a rock solid junior programme which encourages everybody to be good citizens first and foremost. 

All who adhere to our core club values are always welcome. 

Once a part of our great club, almost everybody remains a loyal and committed Bulldog no matter where there life journey may take them. 

This becomes increasingly obvious every year, not just with our long serving members, but second, third and even fourth generation life members joining their parent and grandparents.

From our first (and longest standing) President the late AJ ‘Moggy’ Bow who served in this capacity for 35 years from 1937-1972 to our current President Michael ‘Pancho’ Harding (second longest at 8 years and counting) who is also ‘Moggy’s grandson, our club ethos of always bettering the Esperance football community has stood the test of time.

Moggy’s wife ‘Diddy’ and son John (club games record holder) and Fred were also dedicated life members, while daughter Lorraine is the mother of Michael Harding and Grandmother of reigning (and dual) Bow Medallist Christopher.

Past players too, many of whom have had the talent to play at higher levels than our league, are often drawn back and once again contribute to the club which gave them their grounding.

Although precious little is known about football in Esperance prior to 1956, something a few people may remember is Esperance originally wore black and gold guernseys. 

However when the current association formed in 1956 with the establishment of Gibson (joining Esperance & Mallee), they wanted black and gold, so Esperance switched to the now famous red and white.

Since our foundation in 1937, Esperance has continued to be at the forefront of innovation and success. 

One of the earliest of these came from the dedication, foresight and hard work by the late Herb Hansen (and a host of others) who during the 1960’s undertook the building of what became The Herb Hansen Pavilion, not just modern change rooms, but a licenced establishment with entertainment area and canteen so entire families could enjoy not just a day at the football, but a friendly social environment after the game when casserole teas and babies bassinets under tables quickly became the norm and everybody was ‘family’. 

There have been many additions and changes to the original building over the years, including the addition of The Frank Murray Changerooms, but Herb’s name continues to live on through work and vision which extended through all his family. 

Wife Joan and daughter’s Cheryl and Wendy are also life members along with his grandson Ryan Neill (easily the most decorated player in our history). 

Ryan’s son Kaden also appears destined to break into our League side in the near future.

The 1970 Bulldogs had an undefeated season with what many still consider the finest team ever in our Association (back to back undefeated teams of 2014 & 15 may have since surpassed them). 

Led by powerhouse Captain Coach Neville Millington (who kicked 16 goals in the Grand Final), they were simply unstoppable. 

Their all conquering run extended beyond the season too, when they travelled to Bunbury for a major football carnival and defeated a combined Lower South West Association side.

In 1978 Peter Anderson (aka The High Flying Crab) introduced an end of season Bulldogs Bark booklet (mainly to highlight his winning the Bow Medal for Club F&B) which provided not only humorous anecdotes, but a first class record of games, premierships etc., courtesy of outstanding records kept by Joan Hansen. 

Crab’s innovation resulted in an ongoing booklet from 1982 until the early 2000’s complete with photos and funded by advertising from our many generous sponsors.

By the 1990’s the face of football Australia wide had changed with the advent of a national competition; and availability of instant communication via television, mobile phones and computers taking more people away from our game. 

To help counteract these twin threats, Esperance Football Club again reacted quickly and the combination of a dedicated group of members and wonderful community support, The Old Oval become the first football ground in WA to be fully lit to game standard and commenced playing all games on a Saturday night. 

The first ever night game in May 1993 drew a crowd estimated at 5,000 people which still remains a local record.

In more recent times, Esperance were again at the forefront of change when we had the opportunity of recognising our long and proud heritage of indigenous footballers who always have and continue to be a wonderful part of our club. 

One of our indigenous Colt’s players at the time in Vinny Graham designed a unique guernsey for the occasion, and our indigenous round is now a permanent part of our fixturing.

Premierships:

ESPERANCE FOOTBALL CLUB A GRADE PREMIERSHIPS SINCE 1956

1957-58- 59, 1961–62, 1964–65, 1967, 1970-71- 72, 1974, 1976–77, 1987–88, 1999-2000- 01,

2005, 2007, 2012-13- 14-15- 16

26 PREMIERSHIPS SINCE 1956 IS ASSOCIATION RECORD (Despite two ten year premiership droughts during this time are the only club to enjoy Premiership success in every decade)

UNDEFEATED IN 1961, 1970, AND IN CONSECUTIVE YEARS OF 2014 & 2015

CURRENT STREAK OF 5 SUCCESSIVE PREMIERSHIPS IS ASSOCIATION RECORD – 5 players in Shane

Kirkup, Roger Parsons, Ben Sanford, Brian ‘Dardy’ Clinch and Jamie Jones have played in all 5. Shane

Kirkup who has been captain for the last 3 years, didn’t have a losing game as captain until the

second round of his third year and has only ever lost 2 games as captain. Shane is also thought to be

our most successful Premiership player ever, having played in 9 Grand Finals and winning them all.

GRAND FINAL BERWYN DAVIES MEDALLISTS BEST ON GROUND (SINCE 1987 ONLY):

1987 SHANE SMITH

1988 KEN DIXON

1999 RYAN NEILL

2000 JEFF GOSDEN

2001 STAN ‘Gonny’ THORNTON

2005 WADE LEAR

2007 RYAN NEILL

2012 DECLAN HUGHES

2013 ROGER PARSONS

2014 ROGER PARSONS

2015 BRIAN ‘Dardy’ CLINCH

2016 BRIAN ‘Dardy’ CLINCH

Hepburn medallists (association fairest and best):

1959 CRAIG NOBLE

1960 CRAIG NOBLE

1967 COLIN HARMAN

1969 COLIN KEENAN

1970 REG SAWYER

1971 NEVILLE MILLINGTON

1974 GRAEME SMITH

1975 BRIAN ELLIOTT

1977 PETER ANDERSON

1980 BILL CUTTEN

1982 TOM HOUSTON

1987 SHANE VAN’T HAG

2000 TROY GAVIN

2001 RYAN NEILL

2003 WADE LEAR

2004 DAMIAN WOOD

2007 RYAN NEILL

2008 RYAN NEILL & ROGER PARSONS

2010 DAMIAN WOOD

2012 BEN SANFORD

2014 MITCH KAYE

2015 SHANNON NELSON

Ryan Neill with three association fairest and bests leads Craig Noble and Damian Wood with two each as our other multiple winners.

In our club Fairest & Best (now the Bow Medal) Damian Wood leads with 6, followed by Ryan Neill with 4 and Geoff Trindall & Bill Cutten with 3 apiece.

Nine other players have won the award twice each – Craig Noble, Ted Brown, Colin Harman, Trevor Daw, Ashley Jackson, Darren Hassell, Wayne Howell, Roger Parsons and reigning Bow Medallist Christopher Harding.

NOTED JUNIOR PRODUCTS OF ESPERANCE FOOTBALL CLUB (who after playing league for Esperance went on to higher competition)

CRAIG NOBLE: A member of Swans historic first 3 premierships in 61, 62, & 63. Earlier played 3 games in 1959 under permit and played 57 games in total.

ROWLEY DAW: 54 GAMES South Fremantle (67-72) including 1970 Premiership.

CRAIG TRELEVEN: 120 games East Fremantle (92-95 & 02-03), 92 7 94 Premierships, Captain 02-03. Sandover Medal 1995, Simpson Medal (State game) 1995.

AFL 78 games Hawthorn Dual Teal Cup player and 1997 State of Origin player.

STEPHEN O’REILLY: All Australian schoolboy and Teal Cup. 41 games Swan Districts (90-92). 146 AFL games (93-2000). Grand Finalist Geelong 1994. Inaugural

Fremantle Docker and Doig Medallist (F&B)1996. State of Origin 95,96, & 98.

KINGSLEY HUTCHERSON: 109 league games South Fremantle including 1997 premiership.

Sunday League Premiership Thornlie 1995 (with Jimmy Gray)

GLEN SYMONDS: 52 league games (East Fremantle & Claremont 88-94) Claremont Premiership 1993.

ANDREW CUTTEN: 7 league games for East Fremantle in 1999.

JIMMY GRAY: 4 games Swans 1994, Sunday League Premiership Player 1995, Mazzuchelli Medal Great Northern F&B.

RYAN NEILL: 1 league game for Swans 1997. Avon association F&B.

TROY FOOTE: Didn’t play any league games for Esperance (due to attending boarding school in Perth) but another state junior representative who played 28 league games for Swans & Perth from 94-98.

BYRON BYRNE: Didn’t play football at any higher level than A Grade for Esperance, but excelled in other areas, with Rhodes Scholarship in the 90’s and 26 games of first class cricket in England while attending Oxford.

Humour:

The late 70’s and early 80’s saw some Bulldogs players (and officials) conduct the now infamous ‘chooky runs’.

These involved a fair degree of alcohol, before raiding non attending club member’s chook pens late at night.

On one memorable excursion, several participants became disorientated for want of a better word, and ended up with a prize duck from a property next door to a club member.

Said duck disgraced itself rather badly when it didn’t take kindly to being locked in Harry Hassell’s new car for the night and did what ducks do best (in copious quantities) all over the velour seats.

The property owner upon realising the next morning his duck was missing, went to the Esperance Police Station to report somebody had stolen his prize duck.

The attending police officer (one Senior Constable Gary O’Meara who was an Esperance player) was very sympathetic and informed the duck owner he would do everything in his power to see it was returned; failing to mention of course that he had been one of the instigators of the previous night’s raids and already had a fair idea of where to locate said duck.

Consequently Constable O’Meara, courtesy of the ‘paddy van’ personally delivered the duck back to its rightful home, and the owner thought he was the most wonderful policeman ever.

Over the years we’ve had several Customs Officers play for us (Alan Love, Peter Anderson, and Greg Colgan) and their house high on a hill in Corry Street was always a fine target.

Once after leaving the club early on a Friday as he needed to fly to Perth next morning, Alan Love went to reverse out his driveway, only to find his gates had been welded together.

On another occasion he awoke to find his driveway (it was two strips of concrete with lawn in between).

Had a fifteen foot tall gum tree planted in the centre of it!

Although violence in football is these days rightly frowned upon, things were different in the 60’s and 70’s and 100 game player and past President the late Jeff Rothnie (father of life members Peter & Shane) id have somewhat of a reputation in this department.

However nobody remembers Jeff for the fights he won (virtually all of them), but the only one he lost when a nice little old lady from Gibson by name of Myrtle Dwyer in being protective of her son whom Rotho may have ruffled up, tried to beat poor old Jeff to death with her umbrella as he left the ground.

Current President Michael Harding was captain coach of our Reserves in the early 90’s, but had a knee which could go out at a moment’s notice, resulting in the need for several officials to carry him off.

In a game at Norseman, he went down in a screaming heap in the goalsquare and poor old Frank Murray and Doogsy Jones were unable to budge him.

As can only happen in ‘bush’ football, the Norseman goal umpire at that end had a broken leg and was propped up against the fence five metres behind the goals (only moving his head to adjudicate whether a goal or a behind) with his crutches alongside.

Quick thinking saw Doogsy ‘borrow’ the goal umps crutches which were then used by Michael to make his way to our bench, whereupon Doogsy returned them to the goal ump.

Norseman was always mystified why we wouldn’t allow that gentleman to also goal umpire the league game.

A game against Ports in the 80’s during the one umpire days saw Dave Freeman officiating while Jim Finnerty (Freeman’s next door neighbour) competed at a boundary throw in against one of our former players in Richie Braybrooke.

Now it must be said, Richie couldn’t run unless his elbows were pointed straight out.

Consequently Finnerty took unkindly to wearing one of them in his ear, so as Braybrooke trotted off he caught up and gave him a clip behind the ear.

Umpire Freeman was then left to try and break the resultant scrap which he eventually did.

Fast forward six days to Kalgoorlie and Umpire Freeman is in Kalgoorlie marrying Richie Braybrooke’s sister.

Richie is best man and Jim is master of ceremonies and they are all happily drinking beer together.

That is probably what country football should be about.