Local Footy: Wickers walk tall against 142nd opponent

Elsternwick Amateur Football Club’s greatest rivals

Club games won lost drawn first played last played
ANZ Bank/Albert Park 50 26 24 0 1961 2010
Collegians 47 20 25 2 1914 1953
Old Scotch 42 11 20 1 1923 1947
University Blacks 41 15 26 0 1921 1947
Glenhuntly 40 17 23 0 1928 1998
Power House 9 14 25 0 1950 2010


The Elsternwick Amateur Football Club was not long formed when it joined the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, which later became the VAFA, in 1914.

The Wickers played in A-section for the next 25 years, winning premierships in 1920 and ’25, but since 1939 it has experienced the entire gamut of amateur footy. Elsternwick has played in every grade from A to G, which is now known as Division 4. The Wickers’ most recent flag was in Division 4 in 2005.

By playing in every section in Australia’s biggest footy competition for such a long time, the Wickers have pitted themselves against more clubs than any other. Its rival in its Division 3 game on Saturday, Yarra Valley Old Boys, was the 142nd club it has played in senior competition.

The only current Amateur clubs Elsternwick is yet to play are Mazenod, Point Cook, Mt Lilydale and South Mornington. The last three are recent additions to Amateur footy. If this year’s Division 4 season goes according to seeding, Elsternwick might just play Mt Lilydale and South Mornington next season.

The Wickers play in Essendon jumpers. They have jumper clashes with La Trobe University and Old Xaverians. If they play La Trobe, one club wears a white set of jumpers from Amateur headquarters.

One of the last times they played Old Xavs was in 1951. In that game, explained Elsternwick historian Col Page, both clubs just wore their regular strips.

“In those days there was no such thing as jumper clashes,” Page said.

Page’s father George coached the 1951 team to the D-section premiership. The captain and vice-captain from that team, Bill Elliott and Russell Nash, were at the Elsternwick past players’ lunch on Saturday.

Elliott, 88, and Nash, 83, shared roving duties in 1951. The star in their team was 16-year-old centre half-back Don Williams, who was later a premiership star at Melbourne. Elliott and Nash said the Wickers’ biggest rival in that era was Parkdale.

In the grand final against Parkdale, Elliott, Nash and centreman Ron Neville proved 50 years ahead of their time when they rotated through the rover, centre and back pocket positions.

“We confused them,” Elliott said. “They didn’t know where we were!”

David Mahoney played 300 games for Elsternwick and was named at full-back in the team of the century. He said the biggest rival in the 1970s was West Brunswick. “We just seemed to play them a lot.”

Their rivalry bred a certain familiarity. In those days, it was common for one club to promise a barrel to the other if their rival could pull off a victory to help their cause. This happened when one team was trying to make the four or avoid relegation.

Elsternwick’s strongest rival in recent years has been Albert Park. In 1991 Albert Park club was still known by its original name, ANZ Bank. The Bankers were so heavily favoured to win their F-section grand final against Elsternwick that they hired marquees and prepared elaborate celebrations.

“We rolled them,” said former Elsternwick ruckman and president Adam Harkin.

On Saturday the current president, Antony Blackshaw, indicated the club’s plight when he pointed out that a house near their ground, the No.2 oval at Elsternwick Park, was expected to fetch $2.2 million at auction that day.

“Not many 25-year-olds can buy in Elwood or Elsternwick,” he said.

The Wickers have no juniors. Their players tend to be sons of former players or blow-ins who live in flats near the ground. But the club does have spirit.

On Saturday, as the past players gathered on the Graham Holmes Memorial Wing (so named because of stalwart Holmes’s recent death), the Wickers fought off a challenge from Yarra Valley to win by nine points.

Another foe was vanquished.

Comments

  1. smokie88 says:

    Daff,
    I played against Elsternwick a couple of times. My abiding memory is that of their ground being so small (even when compared with the Fearon!). The Punt Rd (being in the shadow of the) M.C.G. thing also had some resonance for me.
    DD

  2. Dave Nadel says:

    Great piece, Daff. I wonder how many of the 142 clubs are still in existence. Demography and real estate certainly change football. As inner city clubs disappear they are replaced by clubs on the outskirts of town – and Mornington, Lilydale and to a lesser extent Point Cook are certainly a long way from the centre of town!

  3. Smokie,

    I was actually taken aback by the Wickers’ facilities. They must be the worst of any suburban club, with no social club, limited changing rooms and a tiny scoreboard that looked like it was put up by a carpentry student during secondary school recess.

    I asked the scoreboard attended how long the scoreboard had been there. The tin plates with the numbers were laid out on the ground in front of him. He grunted at me.

    I’ve seen the oval many times while walking into the main arena at Elsternwick Park but I never realised how small the second oval was until I saw a game played on it. Very scratchy, tufty grass. Poky yet exposed. There was something unforgiving about it.

    Dave,

    Good question about the clubs. You’ll notice Glenhuntly from the above table. That’s one that’s no longer around.

    It’s true that the Amateurs are expanding from the outer suburbs. The lower sections are full of outer suburban clubs, with the exception of a few stalwarts like Powerhouse.

    The top sections are still full of clubs more or less from the inner suburbs, especially the old boys teams from the inner east. Not sure whether this will ever change.

  4. pauldaffey says:

    PS. Thanks JB for tabulating the table.

  5. Wayne Francis says:

    Paul, you mention Elsternwick hasnt played Mazenod. I found some records the two clubs met in 1990.

  6. Wayne,

    I’ll take your word on it. I’ll contact Col Page from Elsternwick and let him know.

    I trust you have the hose ready for your next home game at Central Reserve.

  7. pauldaffey says:

    Wayne,

    I’ve got the word from Col Page from Elsternwick. You’re right. It should have been Marcellin not Mazenod.

    Bit of rain about today. You might be able to leave the hose alone.

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