The Early Days
The Caulfield Grammarians’ Football Club has an exceptionally long and proud history. CGFC is the equal second, consecutively competing team in the VAFA having commenced in 1920. The competition was then known as the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association (MAFA).
Even before the formation of CGFC in 1920, “Old Boys” teams had participated in matches although they did not play regular fixtures until 1920. As early as 1889 an “Old Boys” team played the students on August 15th. Past versus present students matches were played regularly from 1907 to 1914. There were no further games played until the formation of CGFC in 1920 due to the First World War. From more recent times, current footballers from School play our Under 19 team for the ASH Cup, named after Angus Spooner Holmes, former School Principal. This remains a popular event and often the first introduction for footballers from School to CGFC.
In 1920 CGFC joined Old Melburnians, Melbourne Swimming Club and Teachers’ College in entering the MAFA to swell the ranks of that competition to eight teams, the original four being Collegians, South Yarra, University and Elsternwick.
CGFC played their home games at the School from 1921 and in 1923. MAFA split into two sections, A and B, with CGFC in B Section. In 1925 the club won their first premiership against Teachers’’ College in B Section. Eric Dakin, a former schoolboy star player, kicked an amazing 123 goals in the premiership season.
Charlie Kitson was the first CGFC player to represent the club in a combined team in 1927 and George Cassidy won the MAFA B Section best and fairest award in 1928.In 1931 after a not too successful season in 1930, the club was dropped back to C Section and to D Section in 1933 in the rapidly expanding competition. By 1936 the competition had changed its name to the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) and Captain, Jack Morley, was second in the competition best and fairest.
A Junior “Old Boys’ team was formed in 1940 before the cessation of all competition due to the Second World War. After resuming in 1946, CGFC were in C Section, the junior team recommenced in 1949 and in this season the club again tasted premiership success winning the D Section flag against Murrumbeena.
In 1950, three star players, Irving Davidson, Ron Ashbolt and Ian Felsenthal were all recruited by St Kilda before returning to the club in later seasons. All three have remained strong supporters of CGFC to this day.
In 1952 the club achieved promotion to C Grade although defeated by St Kevins in the D Section Grand Final. The club was strong in this period and in 1953 defeated Power House to win the flag and gain promotion to B Section.
The Golden Era
Back in C Section in 1955 the club was very competitive throughout the 1950’s with a number of finals’ appearances. Robin Harrison won the competition best and fairest in 1959 and in 1961 another premiership was achieved in D Section, against West Brunswick. 1963 saw a grand final defeat by Parkside but promotion to B Section and the club consistently appeared in finals and reached A Section in 1966.
In the 50th year of the Club the ultimate prize was achieved, the 1970 A Section premiership winning margin, 2 points against Coburg. John (JA) Wilson was the successful coach and Tony Lester the Captain.
The Club’s record score to that date, 32-16-208, was scored in 1971 against MHSOB and a special dinner held in 1971 to mark John Wilson’s retirement as coach after 11 seasons. John Butcher won the A Section goal kicking award with 80 goals. Throughout the seventies Caulfield Grammarians was a respected football club despite a couple of seasons in B Section and returned to A Section in 1976.
In 1979 the Tootell Pavilion was built above the change rooms at Albert Park to honour the outstanding contribution of the Tootell family to the football club. In the early 1980’s the club again slipped to C Section before winning the flag in that season and promotion back to B Section. David Matthews kicked 114 goals in the premiership season.
Back to A Section in 1986 but by 1991 the club had slipped down to D Section and although returning briefly to C Section in 1993, the forced relocation of the club to East Malvern saw the club struggle and fall back to D Section by 1995. Richard Harris played his 200th game in 1994.
The Modern Era
After rallying in 1995 the Club figured in the finals in 1996 under the coaching of past player George Voyage only to lose both finals and miss out on promotion to C Section. Geoff Reilley, a four time premiership coach, took over from George Voyage in 1997 following a long coaching career including senior coaching roles at Ormond in A Section and Whitefriars in B Section.
Following the loss of significant senior players from the 1996 season and poor attendances during the pre-season, 1997 saw the club struggling and they slipped further to E Section for the 1998 season. With much better preparation and sound recruiting the Club won the flag that season to return to D Section. The second semi final against Peninsula Old Boys was a low scoring affair with 'The Fields' playing a great second half to guarantee the rise back to D Grade in 1999. The Grand Final was against arch rivals of the time, Old Camberwell, and was a tough encounter at Glen Waverley with Old Camberwell 5 points up at half time. Captain Dean Anderson had been hit behind play but returned after half time to lead the revival. With 7 goals to 2 in the second half, the Grand Final was won. Best players were named as Dean Synman, Will Bowes, Nick Lubransky, Nigel Brohier, Trevor Royals and Dean Anderson. Full forward Blair Hall kicked 5 goals.
The club’s present home ground, Glenhuntly Oval, was providing far better facilities than at East Malvern and the under 19 team had been re-established in 1998. Former Hawthorn premiership player, Dean Anderson, who had returned from the AFL in 1998, to “play with his mates”. After making a significant contribution as a player in that season, Dean took over the senior coaching position from Geoff Reilley for the year 2000 and coached the Club to another premiership and a rise to C Section. The Grand Final was a triumph for Anderson and his team when they annihilated Old Essendon 26.13 to 6.8 and the Reserves also defeated Old Essendon 13.12 to 5.9. Best players in the senior game were Steve Amiet, Drew Pearce, Jon Whitmee, Simon Widjaja, Dean Synman and Mark Liddell. Steve Amiet kicked 9 goals and Andrew Will 6. The strength of the club at that time was clear with the U19's finishing 5th, only missing the top four on percentage.
A great win in the 2001 Junior Section 2 Grand Final by a fine U19 team, coached by former player, Chris Mathieson, also brought fresh talent to the club. It was a period of consolidation for the seniors who finished 6th while the reserves lost the first semi-final by 1 point.
Dean Anderson was still senior coach in 2002 in C Section and further progress was made, the senior team making the top four, winning the first semi final before losing the preliminary to St Bernards 7.13 to 9.10. The Reserves, coached by former 1998 premiership player, Martin DiCrosta, won the premiership against Whitefriars.
Merv Keane was a good appointment in 2003 when 'Ando' retired from coaching and led the side into the finals but lost the first semi to Beaumaris. 2004 was an even better season although the grand final was lost to MHSOB with Simon Widjaja, Marc Frater, Nick Fallu, Brett Sinclair, Andrew Will and Ben Carboni named as best players on the day. Merv Keane did not continue in 2005 and former South Melbourne/Sydney Swans star, Steve Wright took over the reins. As a result of promotion from the previous season's grand final appearance, B Section presented a bigger challenge and a finish of 7th was satisfactory. The following season, 2006, saw Steve coach his team into the B Section 1st semi only to lose to Old Essendon. It was the first time the Club the Club had been in B Section for 20 years. Brett Sinclair, one of the VAFA's leading goal kickers that year kicked 5 goals in the losing semi. Brett was the B Section leading 'sharpshooter' in that season. Steve Wright completed a third season as coach in 2007 but the senior team could only finish equal 5th on points with four other teams.
Gary Colling, ex St Kilda captain and star player was appointed senior coach in 2008 and experienced problems from the start with no training facilities available during pre-season due to works on the Glenhuntly Oval and the unavailability of the Mills Oval at Caulfield Grammar. It was a very difficult season with a number of players from the previous, successful years having retired. The senior team finished on the bottom of the ladder to be relegated to C Section.
In 2009, former St Kilda and Brisbane Lions player, Steven Lawrence, was appointed Senior Coach and instilled a new game plan whilst building toward a goal to return to A Section. Although failing to win a senior premiership in 2009 and 2010, Lawrence’s commitment to succeed, excellent game plan and building of a youthful, talented squad saw the Club play in consecutive final series and a return to B Section, narrowly losing the 2010 C Section premiership.
An exceptional 2011 season saw all four teams in the finals and a magnificent victory by the senior team to take out the B Section flag and secure a return to A Section for the first time since the mid eighties. Although only the senior team were premiers, to have the four teams competing in September was outstanding. The senior team won the second semi-final against St Kevins 13.13 to 10.9 and the Grand Final against St Bernards 17.12 to 12.9. Best players in the Grand Final were Mark Liddell, James Shanahan, Stef Garrubba, Sam Wood, Ryan Lewis and Justin Perkins. Justin Perkins kicked 5 goals and Gav Winter and Clay Johnston 2 each. The day was highlighted even further when Mark Liddell won the Ian Cordner Medal for best on ground.
Considerable changes to the playing group occurred in 2012 with a number moving on to higher levels, overseas travel impacting and other priorities reducing the talent of the squad at a time of taking the biggest jump in the sections, B to A. The results in 2012 were disappointing but not through lack of trying. The senior team was winless for the season despite often being 'in the mix' at half time in a number of games. Lack of size, experience and strength really told in Premier Section and the Club was to return to Premier B for the following season. The Reserves had held their own finishing 6th and the U19's finished fourth. Steve Lawrence finished his successful coaching career at CGFC at the completion of the 2012 season.
At the end of 2012 the club’s long serving President Matthew Scholten retired after 15 seasons in the role. Matthew an ex CGFC player took the club from the depths of E grade in 1998 all the way to A grade in 2012. A great clubman, Matthew left the club in better shape than when he started and is still involved in the club today.
The club was fortunate in 2013 to secure the services of Tim O'Shaughnessy, former successful premiership coach of Old Xaverians and with considerable experience in amateur football. It was another challenging season but the club stayed in Premier B with 7 wins (7th place), the reserves finished 3rd, the thirds 6th and the U19's, with limited numbers, were at the bottom of Section 2.
2014 evolved as another difficult season for senior and reserves, lack of numbers evident in the second half of the season especially and had not been sufficient at the start to enter a thirds team. The U19's won 6 of their 18 games to finish 9th.
At the completion of the season, the hard working Tim O'Shaughnessy retired from coaching having completed a very successful coaching career over a number of years, his final game in round 18 a wonderful win over the clear ladder leaders, Uni Blues, by 10 points resulting in Caulfield remaining in B Section.
In 2015 lack of playing numbers again caused numerous problems and only the persuasion of retired players coming out of retirement avoided handing out 'walk-overs' by our reserves at times, making life very difficult for the coaching staff. Wayne Oswald had assumed the senior coaching role following his role as CGFC Development Coach in 2014. The senior team won only 2 games for the season resulting in relegation to Premier C Section for the following season, an extremely disappointing result. The reserves finished second bottom with only 3 wins. The clear highlight for this season was the outstanding premiership by the U19's who came from fourth position to take the flag under the continuing tutelage of Josh McCahon. It was a huge lift for the Club in an otherwise dismal season and provided the spark of hope for a successful revival in 2016.
Since the end of 2015, the appointment of the highly regarded Simon Williams, a former premiership player and coach at Old Brighton, has produced the required response and the build up for the coming season has been outstanding. Numbers have increased significantly, the thirds reinstated and every indication of a resurgence for the blue and white!
Thanks to Geoff Reilley for his efforts in compiling this.