THE HISTORY OF BENTLEIGH FOOTBALL NETBALL CLUB
The club was established in 1965, and was originally called Bentleigh Methodists Football Club. In 1965 the club had enough seniors to enter the Eastern Suburban Churches Football Association D grade and won nine and lost nine games.
In 1968 the club won their first premiership downing Mont Albert by 98 points. Promoted to C grade, the club lost the C grade grand final in 1970 and the B grade in 1971. The ESCFA had a system of both Grand Finals teams got promoted so to avoid the risk of a side playing dead so not to get promoted. By 1972 they were in A grade.
In 2015 the name became Bentleigh Football and Netball Club to include the netballers and acknowledge the efforts they put in for the club.
The Bentleigh Methodists Football Club was formed on February 10th 1965 with its first committee being elected on March 4th 1965. The club, known as the Terriers, entered one Senior team in D Grade of the Eastern Suburbs Protestant Churches Football Association (ESPCFA) and played its games at the King George VI Memorial Park, East Bentleigh.
1967 football team
In its first season under coach Geoff Mason, the club finished a very credible fifth, winning nine games and losing nine. A highlight of the year was Bruce Aitken’s achievement in winning the Association’s Best and Fairest award. Over the next two seasons the club, although not reaching the finals consolidated its position within the Association both in terms of administration and the strength and size of its player list.
A significant event during this period was the club’s move to the Mackie Road Reserve, East Bentleigh which was to be its home ground for the next 21 years. The 1968 season proved to be a significant one in the club’s brief history. With the growth in playing stocks, the club was able to field a second side which played in E Grade of the ESPCFA. The Senior side, under the guidance of playing coach, Geoff Mason, finished on top of the ladder and defeated Mont Albert in the Grand Final by 98 points. The club produced its first 100 goal season goalkicker, Bruce Aitken, who kicked 108 goals and Seconds captain coach Bob Tidball won the first of his three Association Best and Fairest awards.
The period 1969 – 1975 was a very successful period for Bentleigh with the club being represented in finals in all but one year. The Senior side went from C Grade in 1969 to A Grade in 1972 playing in two losing Grand Finals with margins of six points in 1970 and 12 points in 1971. The Seconds side played in five finals series finishing runner up in 1974 and 1975. Other highlights of this period were Seconds captain coach Bob Tidball winning two Association Best and Fairest awards, club captain John Lilley winning the Association A Grade Best and Fairest in 1972, champion ruckman John Delaney winning the Association A Grade Best and Fairest in 1974, the achievements of full forward Bruce Aitken who kicked 100 goals or better twice and the establishment of a thirds side who played as Under-17s in 1972. During this period, the club changed its logo from the Terriers to the Bulldogs and the competition changed to the Eastern Suburbs Churches Football Association (E.S.C.F.A).
The club hit a low period in season 1977 with the Senior side failing to win a game and the Seconds losing all but four games. The club was moved to B grade for the 1978 season. Although the Seniors failed to make the finals in 1978, the season was relatively successful for the club with the Seconds, under coach Bob Tidball, defeating Glenhuntly in the Grand Final by 77 points and Dennis Stringer’s achievement in winning the Seconds Associations Best and Fairest award.
For the second time in two years, the club hit a low point with both the Seniors and Seconds winning very few games, resulting in Bentleigh being moved to C Grade for the 1980 season. Although experiencing limited success on the playing field, the 1980 season was a turning point for the club with the installation of a professional coaching panel and a new administration. With the return to Bentleigh of some key former players, the Dragons as they were now known, experienced a resurgence in their playing fortunes in 1981 with the Seniors being runner up to Glen Waverley in the C Grade Grand Final and the Seconds, under coach Peter Farnsworth, defeating Highfield by 53 points to win the premiership.
1982 saw both the Senior and Seconds finishing on top of the B Grade ladders at the conclusion of the home and away season. The Seconds, under playing coach Alan White, defeated Mt Waverley in the Grand Final by 29 points and the Seniors unfortunately lost the Preliminary Final by 7 points. A highlight of the season was the goalkicking efforts of Seconds playing Coach Alan White who kicked a club record of 209 goals. His best result for the home and away games was 38.3 against Box Hill Adelphians. On this day the side kicked a club record of 50 goals 26 behinds – (326 points.) The club experienced limited success on the field over the next five years with the Seniors making the finals only once and the Seconds twice. This period however was significant as the club formed an alliance with the Bentleigh Junior Football Club. This alliance was to have both short term and long term benefits for both organisations.
Gary Morgan & Greg Clough
The 1988 season proved to be most important to the long term future of the club as it saw the arrival of many young players along with their parents who took on important administrative roles within the club. Of equal significance was the clubs move to the Bentleigh Recreation Reserve, Bentleigh with its excellent playing and social facilities. The ground had previously been the home of the Bentleigh Federal League club. Both the Seniors and Seconds finished in the lower halves of their respective ladders however the Thirds, under coach John Smith, playing as under 18’s defeated St Kilda City to win the premiership.
1989 was a resurgent year for Bentleigh in its playing fortunes with both the Seniors and Seconds finishing on top of their respective ladders. Success, however, was not to follow in the finals with the Seniors losing the Preliminary final and the Seconds losing the Grand Final. The 1990 home and away season was almost a carbon copy of the previous year with both the Seniors and Seconds finishing on top. For the first time in its history, the club experienced the ultimate in finals success with the Seniors, under playing coach Paul Dimattina, defeating Richmond by 74 points to win the Grand Final and the Seconds, under coach Alan Jones, defeating Richmond by 57 points to win their Grand Final.
Paul Dimattina pictured with star full-forward Con Gorozidis
1991 saw Bentleigh return to A Grade football for the first time since 1977 with both the Seniors and Seconds finishing their seasons in fifth place. The seniors once again finished fifth in 1992. The Seconds finished on top of the ladder at the end of the home and away season, but unfortunately lost the Preliminary Final. The 1992 season was to be the last for the Eastern Suburbs Churches Football Association. The ESFCA combined with the Southern Football League at the end of 1992 to form a new Metropolitan Football Competition.
In 1993 the Bentleigh Football Club played in the Premier Division of the new Southern Football League against clubs, the majority of which were part of the old
South East Suburban and Federal Football Leagues. This was the first year of a seven year association with the Southern League with the club always competing in the highest grade that the competition could offer. Highlights for the club during this period were the high standard of administration provided by the club, and the strengthening of the clubs standing within the local community, particularly with its alliance with the Bentleigh Juniors which resulted in the re-establishing of under-18s.
Other highlights came from the sound links which had been established with the business community, the adoption of the Demons as the clubs logo, the forming of links with the original Bentleigh Football Club who before its demise had a history dating back to the early 1920’s, and the onfield success of the club.
The club appointed former Bentleigh Uniting champion and 10 year Oakleigh VFA player, Gary Atherton, to lead the club in its first season. Among the players Gary recruited to the club was young Oakleigh champion Chris Sharp. Chris went on to have a long and illustrious career with Bentleigh.Both the Seniors and Seconds reached the finals in 1994 . The Seniors defeated arch rivals St Pauls in a hard fought first semi and then lost to powerhouse team, East Brighton in the Preliminary Final.
In 1995 Bentleigh recruited former Melbourne player, John Fidge, as Senior coach. Although the year proved not to be a success as far as making the finals, it saw the start of an outstanding career at Bentleigh for champion Centre Half Back, Dave Martin.
In 1996 former Bentleigh player and Premiership coach, Paul Dimattina took over as Senior Coach. Paul coached the Seniors for the remainder of the club’s time in the SFL.
The Seniors finished on top of the ladder and thus were minor Premiers in 1998. Unfortunately, finals success eluded the Seniors and they bowed out of the finals race losing the Second semi final to Balwyn and the Preliminary Final to Noble Park by less than a goal.
At the end of the 1999 season, Bentleigh reviewed the direction it was taking as a football club and its links with the competition that it was playing in. In a momentous decision, the club membership overwhelmingly decided to sever the links with the Southern Football League and join the Victorian Amateur Football Association, a competition that best suited the clubs long term direction.
Although losing a number of senior players to other competitions Bentleigh was able to field a strong side in D4 in its first year in the Amateurs. After easily winning the second semi final Bentleigh lost the Grand Final to fellow former SFL side, South Melbourne Districts
Bentleigh again played off in the grand final in 2001 in D3 section under the coaching of Ron Gordon, and was defeated by minor premiers, Fitzroy Reds. Promoted to D2 section in 2002 Bentleigh finished fourth. This season was followed by several difficult ones resulting in Bentleigh being relegated to D3 section. In this period the club, however, did experience some success with its U19 side, which had combined with St Pauls under-19s, under coach Mick Lee, making the finals and winning the 2004 premiership.
Bentleigh seniors once again made the D3 section grand final in 2006 and after a strong win in the second semi final Bentleigh lost the grand final to arch rival, South Melbourne Districts, however was still promoted to D2 section.
The club struggled in 2007 winning few games in both the Seniors and Reserves. The situation was the same in 2008 with the club being relegated to D3 section at the end of the season.
In 2009 with a new administration and new coaching panel the club had an excellent year both on and off the field. Under coach Michael Lee the under-19s made the finals, the Reserves under coach Matt Ashenden defeated Powerhouse in the Grand Final and the Seniors under coach Lex Munro defeated St Marys in the Grand Final.
The senior Grand Final was played in a howling wind. They went into the final term with a slight lead, but had to hold out the opposition coming home with the wind. They ended with a 23 point victory and hard running rover Daniel Wills won the medal for best afield.
This was the first time since 1990 that the club had been dual premiers. Our success in 2009 was based on the development of a number of the club’s talented young players and the recruitment of a number of skilled, experienced senior players who provided additional on-field leadership.
2010, which was to be Bentleigh’s last in the VAFA, was one of consolidation and further development of young players. The Reserves had an excellent year under new coach, Michael Lee, finished Grand Final Runners up to a bigger bodied and more experienced Banyule whilst the Seniors who battled injuries all year finished just outside the top four.
At season’s end the club entered into discussions with the Southern Football League regarding re-joining their competition in 2011. After much fact finding, and various meetings with players, committee, supporters, Bentleigh Juniors representatives and officials of the SFL it was decided overwhelmingly to re-join the SFL and play in Division 2 of their 3 Division competition.
Compelling factors were the local nature of the competition, the reduction in the requirement of the club to provide numerous volunteer officials, particularly umpires, and the opportunity to field a team in their Colts (Under-18’s) competition
This last point was a telling one for us as the Bentleigh Juniors, with whom we had developed very close links, had a ready-made U/17’s side and officials who were keen to play in a local U/18’s competition.
In its time in the VAFA the club won only three grand finals (U19’s 2004, Seniors and Reserves 2009 ) and this tally should have been larger considering its talented playing stocks.
There were, however, some highlights in this period other than finals’ success. These included:
Champion Centre Half Back, David Martin, winning consecutive competition Best and Fairest in 2000, 2001 and 2002. This was in addition to David’s 3 consecutive Competition Best and Fairest Awards in the Southern Football League in 1997, 1998 and 1999.
Champion goal scorer, Chris Sharp (Pictured above), kicked 656 goals with tallies of 132 in 2000 and 118 in 2006. This is in addition to the 307 goals he kicked whilst in the Southern Football League.