The history of the Football in Colac dates back to 1896 where football was played right around the local districts, Leagues including Corangamite Farmers Association, Otway Football Association, the Polwarth league, the Colac and District Churches Football Association and the Geelong and District Football League were just a few of the completions running in the area during the period leading up to 1938.
It is hard to know when the Colac Football club actually formed but many believe that it was a culmination of many of the teams falling into obscurity after short history’s including the Colac Wanders whose home ground was behind the East Hotel.
Colac enjoyed success in many of the afore mentioned leagues and the club won three of the last four premierships in the Corangamite Football League before that league disbanded in 1934
1937 saw the birth of the Colac and District Football League but it wasn’t until 1939 that the club joined the CDFL and had immediate success winning the Premiership in their first year. The club was looking forward to a long and successful history in the CDFL but the war came and many players enlisted this meant that the CDFL went into recess during the 2nd world war.
The CDFL competition resumed again in 1945 but the Colac Football Club decided during 1948 that they wanted to transfer to the very strong Hampden Football League Competition.
The Club went and searched for the highest profile coach they could find and they landed Essendon Premiership Ruckman Jack Cassin who had an immediate impact on the club and the competition.
The Cassin lead tigers made their debut in the Hampden League on May 7th 1949 when the club they played their first game against Camperdown at the Tigers then home ground the Western Reserve and where they were victorious by 50 pts., Colac went on to the Grand Final that year and lost narrowly to Cobden but in 1950 the following year they won the Flag against the powerhouse Warrnambool and this heralded Colac as a club that would become a real force in the years to come.
As Colac developed as a Club they went on to win just another four flags between their 1950 triumph and 1980 which was a disappointing result given the foundation Cassin and his men laid down in those early years.
In 1961 the landscape of local football changed again, Coragulac Football Club who were a very successful team in the Polwarth league decided they too wanted to join the Hampden Football league, not only did they join the league but they also took over the Western Reserve the home ground of the Tigers who had moved on to their current home the Central Reserve.
Unlike their cross town rivals the Coragulac Hawks never enjoyed premiership success in the Hampden league in fact they only made the finals on several occasions and with little success between the two clubs it was becoming obvious to most that Colac was not big enough to field two major league teams.
In 1979 the clubs got together and agreed that for the interest of local football and the long term viability of the clubs that they should amalgamate. Both clubs took this to their respective members and after some fiery and at times volatile public meetings that saw many members walk away from their clubs the merger went through and from 1980 there was a new club representing the town, that club was the Colac Coragulac Football Club.
With such volatility surrounding the decision and many people still up in arms the club were very careful to put in place strong leadership that would see them emerge through this rocky period. Former Carlton Premiership player and former Coragulac Coach Barry Gill was assigned the Presidents role whilst the club made what was to become the best decision that could have made in luring former local boy and St Kilda player Stephen Theodore home from Tasmania where he had been playing for Longford.
Gill and Theodore formed the ideal partnership, Gill and his committee took care of the off field conflicts which allowed Theodore to meld players who in the previous season were combatants and probably some at the time were sworn enemies. Theodore was a genius he won the players over with his no nonsense approach and instilled a level of hunger and professionalism never seen before at this level. Theodore was conscious of keeping the players away from the political turmoil that was occurring off the field and in his first three years as coach he lead the team to three Grand Finals and two Premierships.
The Theodore era set the direction and model that still drives the club today, whilst the club went on to win another flag in 1983 it was probably the 1985 Grand Final that will go down in history as one of the clubs finest moments.
Brian Brown another local boy who was playing in the AFL with Fitzroy and later Essendon was recruited to coach the club in 1984. Brown like Theodore was a tough campaigner and he introduces many new young players to the team. 1985 Browns new breed of Tigers came up against the more experienced South Warrnambool in the Grand Final, South boasted a number of players renowned for their tough uncompromising style of play and come out and tried to unsettle Colac, they didn’t factor in the Tigers attitude because on the day not only did Colac take everything South threw at them they rang rings around their more experienced opponents to run out comfortable winners in a games that was described the toughest of its era.
In 1987 the club made the decision that it change its name back to the Colac Football Club, it was a move more driven the players who suggested that it was time that the club be representative of the town. 1987 also signalled the birth of netball into the Hampden Football League, not all teams participated in the inaugural season but the Colac Tigers made sure that they were a part of it the following season and in 1988 it was the beginning of a netball dynasty that would reap A grade premierships in 1991,95,96 and 1998, led by coaching icon Cheryl Creighton the tiger girls were a force in the competition and she set a standard of professionalism that was the envy of the league.. Netball well and truly a became and remains a huge part of the club and it wasn’t long before the club changed its name to the Colac Football Netball Club.
A football club unfortunately suffers losses other than those on the field, in fact losses on the field pale into insignificance when we farewell a former players, member or supporter who have passed away. Nothing prepared the club for the shock of losing a young champion Ted Parker who in 1992 lost his battle with Leukaemia. Ted was a club champion and a player widely respected by his teammate and opponents for the way he went about his football and he was also a well-respected member of the HFL representative teams. Following Ted’s passing the club decided to name the senior best and fairest award after him and such was the respect he was held in the Hampden Football League also struck a medal in his memory this medal is given to the best player on the ground in the U/18 HFL Grand Final.
With many of the players still trying to accept what had happened to Ted, their coach of 1992 Dwayne Russell walked out on the club prior to Christmas leaving the club without a coach going into the 93 season. It was Stephen Theodore who led the club through many a crisis in the early eighties who put his hand up and took charge of the players and went about preparing them for the 93 season. Whilst Theodore was making sure the players stuck together the club searched for a coach and employed a first time coach in former Collingwood player Michael Lockman.
Lockman was a virtual unknown but he immediately clicked with Theodore and another former coach and champion player John Turner and the three of them went about taking the club to the 1993 Premiership with Lockman joining Nathan Murray to become only the second player in the clubs history to boot 100 goals in a season. Victory was sweet and the tears flowed for the memory of Ted Parker but unbeknown to the club this was going to be their last flag in the Hampden League.
The club had some pretty lean years throughout the mid and late 1990’s coaches came and went only one Grand Final appearance in 1999 and finances and sponsorship were very hard earn’t in fact the club was probably at its lowest ebb.
The committee of the day realised that something had to change so they put a working party together in 1999 to investigate the clubs options going forward and come back with some recommendations. The obvious issue of the day was around player retention, the club had players who were at University or living in Melbourne or Geelong and they were indicating that the travel in the Hampden League was an issue. It wasn’t long before Football Geelong got wind of this and began to make overtures to the club. It was obvious that the direction Football Geelong were heading in was very attractive to Colac and likewise Colac was very attractive to them.
The club held several meeting canvassing players, members and sponsors and it was decided that in 2000 the club make formal application to the VCF to transfer from the Hampden Football League to the Geelong Football League.
After many hours of hard work including submissions, presentations and an appeal the club somehow got the move through and from 2001 the club would become a part of the Geelong Football League. This had the Hampden Football League in uproar but there was little that could be done. The club finished the Hampden Football League era off by taking out the U/18 premiership against a previously undefeated South Warrnambool, this was mainly thanks to the efforts of a young star on the horizon Luke Hodge who went on to stamp himself amongst the games greats.
Colac FNC entered their third new era in 2001 with the first season in the GFL, the club went back to another former player in Matt McCartin who they recruited from rival club St Josepehs as their first coach in the competition and put together a list of players that vindicated their decision to make the move. The icing on the cake for the new tigers was the signing of recently de listed Geelong player and former local boy Paul Lynch so the seeds of expectation were sewn and the club was once again re born.
The tigers spared no expense with their move to the GFL, a new jumper and a launch that included sky divers, Mike Brady singing on the ground AFL Legend Tom Hafey as their special guest and a crowd befitting of a final. The tigers opponent that day was St Mary’s and all went to plan other than the team losing the game.
Thankfully the tigers came out the following week and thrashed the reigning Premiers Nth Shore and from then on they were amongst the top teams for the remainder of the season. Colac made the finals in their first year and everyone expected them to be a real chance but unfortunately for them and their supporters they chose the first final to be their worst game for the season and that ended a promising, successful yet disappointing end to the first year in the GFL. Our Netball girls also stamped their imprint on the competition, the team made the A grade Grand Final that year but fell short to North Shore in a hard fought Grand Final.
Colac soon discovered that the GFL was the premier country football competition in Country Victoria, irregular finals appearances throughout the 2000’s were somewhat shadowed by a very strong junior development program which was developed by a host of former players from the eighties era whose sons were starting to emerge through the ranks. Former greats such as Geoff Murfitt, John McVilly and Ian Simpkin was just a few of the catalysts of the junior program which reaped several U/16 Premierships but without doubt 2003 produced the greatest vindication that the junior program was working with Colac’s first Premiership in the GFL, Colac U/18s defeated Grovedale by 8 points in a come from behind victory, many of those players went on and represented the club at senior level including Joffy Simpkin who went on to play in Hawthorns 2012 premiership. The junior program still provides the club with wonderful player resources and with Premierships in 2009 and 2011 is testament to the clubs ongoing commitment to developing our junior players.
As they had in past seasons after a lack of success the tigers again turned to one of their former players and lured John Pekin back from Queensland to take charge of the team in 2007. Pekin was committed to the tigers junior development process and he wasn’t afraid to give younger players an opportunity. It wasn’t long before Pekins coaching style and the young talent at his disposal clicked and in season 2008 the tigers found themselves in their first senior GFL Grand Final against St Mary’s. Unfortunately for Colac they were beaten by 99points.
After the 2008 loss Colac struggled to put themselves in contention they had several coaches and players transitioning in and out of the club really made it tough as the GFL competition was continuing to get stronger and stronger.
Enter Paul Lynch, the man who was the tigers prized recruit in their first year in the GFL came back to the club to take on the senior coaching role. Lynch was given a mandate by President Nick Lang and the committee to get the club back into premiership contention and do it by sourcing local talent. Lynch in his first year put the playing group through the most gruelling pre-season that they had ever endured. Lynch identified that the player had to get physically stronger and get a lot fitter. Lynch was ruthless and by the end of the 2013 season he certainly let the players know it was going to get even tougher in the following year. 2014 no doubt stands alongside 1950 and 1980 as a defining moment in the clubs history, a first senior flag in a new competition came a lot longer than the other two but it meant just as much if not more particularly coming from fifth position.
Colac’s mantra of home grown talent a strong junior program and a hard working committee made them the envy of the entire football community and it was a victory for the ages.
In 2012 the club decided to induct four people to become the inaugural legends of the Colac Football Netball Club. Former Presidents and long serving members in the late Jack Mahoney and Tom Harrington, they were joined by former coach Stephen Theodore and Athol Jones a man that has dedicated himself to work tirelessly for the success of the club. These four men each contributed in shaping the Colac Football Netball club into the success it is today.
Since 2000 we have seen the names Luke Hodge, Nathan Foley, Joffy Simpkin, Amon Buchanan, Andrew Siegert, Tom Simpkin, DeanTowers and Darcy Lang join the many former Colac and Coragulac players who have gone on to play in the AFL, whilst Netballers of the calibre of the Carmody sisters, Nat, Hope and Sara, Stacey McCarthy , Courtney Gibson and Shelly Scott who have paved the way for our new breed of netballers many of whom will strive to emulate their feats.
So that’s a brief history of a club that is over 100 years old, a club that has seen plenty of change through the various era’s but a club that has always looked to become better.
The Colac Football Netball Club has a proud history and whilst on field success has been hard to come by at times the club has never lost its focus of trying to develop and promote local talent.
The club participates in the Victoria’s strongest country football and netball competitions and with ground renovations a further multi-million dollar improvements in the pipeline the Central Reserve will provide our players with the best opportunity to reach their potential.
Our history reflects that the club nearly always looks to one of their own to provide leadership, whether it be Theodore in 1980 or Lynch in 2014 the club will always encourage and promote opportunities for players to develop as future coaches, committee members and community leaders.
A club can only be as strong as its members and we feel that whether your time with us is a short one or a lifetime we can assure you that by working hard and respecting the history of the club you will have the opportunity to make your mark on this great club.