Club History

Club History up to and including 2007 Reproduced with permission of John Devaney – ‘Full Points Footy’

De La Salle had had highly successful schools football teams for a good two decades prior to the formation of an Old Collegians club in February 1955. The club was the brainchild of Jim Hawkins, an Old Collegians Association committee member who had tried out as a footballer with Carlton and Richmond and had spent the 1954 season playing in C Section of the VAFA for St Kevin’s Old Boys.

The expression ‘brainchild’ might be felt to suggest that a great deal of aforethought and planning was involved, but according to Michael Ashford, author of Pride And Premierships, a highly engrossing history of the club’s first quarter of a century, this was probably not the case – or, at any rate, not initially. In the beginning, the formation of an Old Collegians football club simply “seemed like a good idea”. However, in much the same way that a small snowball rolled down a slope can, if the consistency of the snow happens to be just right, rapidly balloon in size, so Hawkins’ ‘good idea’ was so abundantly fuelled by favourable circumstances that the end result was not merely a football club but – and one ventures the term guardedly – a genuinely special one.

Among those favourable circumstances was the fact that the VAFA ‘just happened’ to be seeking to expand, and was therefore more amenable than usual to applications from prospective new clubs. Furthermore, Hawkins’ idea, far from falling on deaf ears, ‘just happened’ to engage the imagination and energies of a group of men and women of real enthusiasm, talent and drive. The Old Collegians Association manifested its support in real terms, too, by donating £150 towards the fledgling club’s running costs, and when St Kevin’s generously made Heyington No. 2 Oval available for training and home fixtures all the major pieces of the jig-saw were in place. The club’s application to enter a team in the VAFA’s E Section was swiftly accepted, and barely two months after the club’s official Inaugural Meeting that team entered the fray for the first time against ANZ Bank at Yarra Bend, emerging with a comfortable 40 point win.

It was the beginning of a six season roller coaster ride for De La Salle which only stalled when the team reached A Section. The side’s remarkable achievements over those years are worth summarising:

Year How The Season Ended Final Position
1955 Defeated Old Geelong Grammarians 15.12 (102) to 9.18 (72) in the E Grade challenge final after ending the home and away series in 2nd place.      Premiers of E Grade – promoted to D Grade
1956 Lost the D Grade final to Old Geelong Grammarians by 10 points 3rd in D Grade
1957 Lost by 9 goals against National Bank in the D Grade grand final. 2nd in D Grade – promoted to C Grade
1958 Won the C Grade grand final 6.12 (48) to 5.8 (38) against Parkside. 1st in C Grade – promoted to B Grade
1959 Lost by 3 points to Commonwealth Bank in the B Grade 1st semi final. 4th in B Grade
1960 Inexplicably thrashed by 99 points by Old Melburnians
 in the B Grade grand final, having won the previous 14 matches in succession.
2nd in B Grade – promotion to A Grade

Seismic rises of this nature are all too often followed by equally dramatic falls from grace, but such was not to be De La Salle’s fate, although the club’s initial involvement in A Grade was only to be brief. The 1963 season found the side back in B Grade, where it would spend the ensuing seven, predominantly lack lustre years, before clambering back to A Section on Ivanhoe’s coat-tails thanks to a 19 point loss to that side in the B Section grand final.

Once again, however, De La Salle was not quite ready for an all-out assault on amateur football’s Holy Grail, and by 1973 the club was back in B Grade, where it endured arguably the most tortuous season in its brief history, only averting the drop to C Grade by a hairsbreadth thanks to wins in the final two fixtures of the year.

After a 1974 season that was only marginally better, the once buoyant club seemed in real danger of sinking into anonymity, and yet by the end of the decade it would have established itself as, beyond any question, the pre-eminent force in Victorian amateur football. The prime catalyst for this astonishing transformation was Bernie Sheehy, formerly of North Old Boys, who combined a passion for the game that was almost tangible with very definite ideas on how it should be played. Those ideas were both forward thinking and adventurous, involving copious amounts of constructive handball as well as what might be called nascent set plays. To most of the players, the Sheehy style was little short of revolutionary. Indeed, the very concept of a ‘style of play’ was revolutionary in itself, but in a surprisingly short space of time, reinforced by what might be called ‘The Sheehy Attitude’, this new approach to the game was having the desired effect.

At its simplest, ‘The Sheehy Attitude’ was built on the twin foundations of hunger to succeed and hatred of losing, neither of which sound all that innovatory in themselves, but in the context of an amateur game in which the primary focus had always been enjoyment, that is precisely what they were. As with the club’s blistering passage through the grades in the 1950s, the five seasons of De La Salle’s Sheehy era warrant delineating:

Sheehy left at the end of the 1979 season to take up a post as reserves coach at Essendon, but his impact on De La Salle was both indelible and enduring. Under Sheehy’s replacement as senior coach, the side made it three A Section flags in four years in 1980 thanks to an 11.14 (80) to 7.18 (72) over University Blues. With further premierships following in 1981, 1983 and 1984 De La put together the most sustained sequence of A Grade success since University Blacks on either side of World War Two.

Since 1984 the club has contested another five A Section grand finals, but only once, in 1991, has success been achieved. It was an especially noteworthy success, however, in that it was shared with the De La reserves and under nineteen combinations, who won their respective premierships as well.

The club has also had to endure a small amount of time in B Section, but even this has had the pleasing side effect of generating further grand final appearances in 1989 (defeatedTherry Corpus Christi Old Boys), 2001 (lost to Old Ivanhoe), 2003 (beat Whitefriars Old Collegians) and 2005 (lost to Old Ivanhoe once more).

The 2007 season saw the De La Salle senior side performing competitively (8-9-1, 6th) in A Section under the coaching of the club’s former under nineteen Blues mentor, Dave Madigan, and if 2008 brought a marginal decline (6-12, 8th) this was nevertheless comfortably good enough for the club to retain its elite grade status. After being in relegation zone for much the year a sold finish saw them finish the season full of confidence including a late season victory over the eventual premier.

At senior level the 2009, 2010, 2012 seasons will be remembered for missed opportunities and some heartbreaking finals defeats. Finishing second after the home and away, the club narrowly lost the 2009 ‘A’ grade grand final. Well down at the final change they produced a barnstorming last quarter only to come up 3 points short. A similar story in 2010. Comfortably in the four all year the season ended with another 3 point loss in a topsy-turvy preliminary final. In 2012 there was very little between the top five teams. We finished the home and away with a 12/6 record and third place. We defeated Scotch in high quality first semi final and found ourselves in a winning position in the preliminary final only to be overrun by Old Xavs in the last to lose by 14 points. However at club level this was a very successful period. We enjoyed unprecedented success at under 19 level with eight Premier Division grand finals in nine seasons for six flags. Five of these grand finals were against VAFA powerhouse Old Xaverians with De La Salle successful on four of those occasions. A highlight was the 2010 season in which the team went through the season undefeated. The Reserves were back-to-back premiers in 2011 and 2012 also defeating Old Xaverians on both occasions.

Year How The Season Ended Final Position
1975 Defeated University Blues
 15.17 (107) to 9.15 (69) in the B Grade grand final.
Premiers of B Grade – promoted to A Grade
1976 Lost the A Grade preliminary final by 2 points to St Bernard’s Old Collegians
3rd in A Grade
1977 Won the A Grade grand final against North Old Boys, 9.20 (74) to 11.5 (76). Premiers of A Grade
1978 Fell out of the four for the first time all season after losing the last match by 11 points to North Old Boys. 5th in A Grade
1979 Won another A Grade pennant with a 17.15 (117) to 12.10 (82) grand final defeat of University Blues. 1st in A Section