From the time of my appointment as CGFC senior coach in 1997 and with experience of amateur football from having coached previously at Ormond and Whitefriars, I was greatly enthused about the possibility of contributing to a club that had a natural breeding ground. Caulfield Grammar School, being a large independent school with excellent facilities would surely be the basis of returning a former A Section premiership club in the VAFA to its former glory.
My disappointment in 1997, (relegated to E Section) was extreme. I realised immediately after my appointment that there was, despite the promise, no under 19 team nor were there strong senior player numbers, proven at the very first pre-season training run with no more than a dozen players in attendance. The rest is history in relation to my time as senior coach. We were relegated from D Section in 1997 but there people who I respected, in particular the outstanding pair of John (JA) and Liz Wilson to whom I wanted to prove my worth. With the support of the then President, Peter Eastlake, the remarkable Wilsons and Matty Scholten I accepted the re-appointment for season 1998 rather than returning to Ormond. The Wilsons of course had experienced the halcyon days of CGFC including 1970, their sole A Grade premiership, John Wilson, a tough, strong personality having been the successful coach in that exceptional premeirship season.
And so in 1998, supported by Matt Scholten and others and with the blessing of the Wilson’s, who I know copped some criticism of my re-appointment, the playing group responded and the 1998 E Section Flag was to an extent the start of a resurgence. When Dean Anderson, premiership captain in 1998, took over the coaching reins, he ensured the club continued its rise with the double premierships, seniors and reserves, in 2000, returning the club to C Section for the 2001 season. Dean’s contribution as a true Caulfield Grammarian was significant both as a player and coach.
By the year 2000 I had been fortunate enough to have been employed as Executive Director of the Caulfield Grammarians’ Association (CGA), an appointment that may well have concerned some Caulfield Grammarians given I was a Brighton Grammarian. However, the support I received from School Principal, Stephen Newton and the CGA executive was outstanding and made me even more dedicated to the cause of the CGFC. As a result my time at the CGA was not only a highlight of my working career but enabled me to provide on-going support to the football club wherever possible.
It was around this time that I first suggested the ‘Sleeping Giant’ phrase having seen the on-going development of the school and its support of its affiliated, past students’ activities. The sporting programmes were so impressive at the school, Stephen Newton’s support for all past student activities was profound and there was no doubt in my mind that with good management CGFC could and should rival any of the existing powers in VAFA A Section football, eg Old Xaverians, St Kevins, Collegians, Brighton etc etc. The establishment of the ‘Kellaway Club’ was another important adjunct to a key component of CGS sport and it was clearly connected to CGFC. Greg Meredith and Barry Rowlings took a distinct interest in CGFC and their support was a huge advance on what I had first experienced in 1997.
The Scholten influence was ongoing and the bar was set for those who followed in the various, key capacities within the CGFC. Warwick Watson and Peter Small as Presidents were different in their pathway to CGFC but their passion and professionalism were similar and a key to the path to success. Scotty Williams became a key club person and of course people came to recognise even more what dedication to a club really means when it comes from someone with no direct connection to Caulfield Grammar. Scotty was neither a schoolboy or parent but if he is not our finest contributor ever then he sits comfortably alongside the Wilsons and other famous names.
And so, getting back to the theme of my reflections, our club who had been so long in the shadow the powerful ‘old boy clubs’ trounced Old Scotch in the Premier B Section grand final in 2019. As a result CGFC’s reputation expanded and we now receive due reference in the VAFA’s media stream. Ammo people are asking me and others connected with CGFC as to what are the prospects? Well the facts are they are there for all to see and more importantly for all to support with even greater effort. We still need on field performance by senior, reserve and U19 teams aided by the often ignored efforts of our “dirty thirds”. And then there is the whole new world of VAFA Women’s teams and CGFC’s impressive impact there. I never imagined I would have enjoyed an end of season presentation night as I did when the last one held following the B Section success. It was truly inspiring with the guys and gals all playing an equal part in the celebrations of their respective achievements.
There was the ongoing support of past principal of Caulfield Grammar, the greatly admired Stephen Newton AO who was Co-Patron of CGFC with the late Liz Wilson. Stephen’s support was enhanced by current principal Ashleigh Martin as Co-Patron. The example of both Stephen and Ashleigh is so greatly appreciated. The memory of the wonderful, generous and much admired Liz Wilson will never be forgotten.
I apologise for not mentioning the many other greats of CGFC, playing or otherwise but I am confident in the knowledge that so many who are still with us are appreciating the encouraging start to our delayed centenary celebratory season. I have often stated my admiration and respect for Simon Williams, an excellent coach and another Brightonian contributing to a Caulfield cause, the part he and his support group play is essential.
I know there is a long way to go in the 2021 season but after each of the first three matches my experience told me that there were key elements in each game that I considered as enhancement to the cause. And I probably bored some people telling them that the jump for B to A was far greater than any other promotion in grades and to be patient for there was something in each game where I detected improvement. The win against the Xavs was brilliant, inspiring and an occasion to be drawn on when needed as the season progresses. No game will be easy, challenges will continue to come, frustration will boil over from time to time, injuries will occur but the evidence is clear - the Sleeping Giant, with all its possibilities and dreams is definitely awakening from its slumber.
Geoff Reilley - A true believer who even uses ‘radar’ to detect the unseen.