P.O. Box 446, Ingleburn 1890, New South Wales
Bob Prenter Oval, 416 Fields Road, Macquarie Fields
Sydney AFL 1999-present
SFA 1976-81; SFL 1982-86; NSWAFL State League 1987-89; SFL 1990-95; ACTAFL 1996-98
Navy blue and white
Blues (formerly Panthers and Kangaroos)
Campbelltown Football Club was formed in 1975 and was admitted to the second tier of organised football in Sydney, the Sydney Football Association, the following year. The club was successful almost immediately, winning the 1978 premiership and gaining admission to Sydney’s top Australian football competition, the Sydney Football League, four years later. Its elevation coincided with the arrival in the harbour city of VFL side South Melbourne, an event which immediately transformed the football landscape in Sydney, undermining the status of the SFL and its clubs, whilst simultaneously enhancing the profile of the sport of Australian football as a whole.
Campbelltown rode the new wave of excitement which permeated the Sydney football scene during the 1980s better than almost any other club. The Blues as they were then known became the dominant force in Sydney football for most of the remainder of the decade, reaching the grand final for the first time in 1985 (when they sustained a 33 point loss to North Shore), and then winning four consecutive premierships from 1986 to 1989.1 The success continued into the 1990s and by the middle of the decade the feeling among certain members of the club hierarchy was that the SFL afforded insufficient challenge if the club was wholly to fulfil its potential. Accordingly, a move to a better competition was sought.
Campbelltown’s defection from the SFL to participate in the Canberra-based ACTAFL was, at the time, and remains in hindsight, a highly controversial, and perhaps somewhat dubiously reasoned, decision. The ostensible reason for doing so was to enable the club to participate in a higher standard competition, but many Sydneysiders claimed that the decision smacked of betrayal. Nevertheless, what cannot be denied is that, during its fourteen year stint in the SFL, Campbelltown had been easily that competition’s most successful club.
Life proved measurably harder in the ACTAFL as the Blues failed to add to their tally of flags, although they by no means disgraced themselves. However, it soon became clear that the costs, problems and pressures associated with involvement in a competition centred many kilometres away from the club’s home base were insuperable. In 1999 Campbelltown, Sydney football’s ‘prodigal son’, returned ‘home’ and immediately reaffirmed its status as the number one club in the SFL, downing Balmain by 22 points in that season’s grand final. Trevor Burnett’s Phelan Medal coupled with a premiership to the reserves emphasised the Blues’ supremacy.
On field success is no longer enough to guarantee a football club’s continued existence, however. With an eye to the future, Campbelltown in 2000 struck a deal with Penrith Panthers Leagues Club, sacrificing something of its identity by changing the club emblem from Blues to Panthers, but consolidating its financial position, and hence its long term survival prospects, in the process.
The Campbelltown Panthers did not forget how to play football, however. In 2001 they reached the grand final, losing narrowly to North Shore after a torrid match, and if the 2002 season was, by Campbelltown’s standards, disappointing (the side finished eighth), they were quick to suggest that this was just a temporary hiatus as, under the new monicker of the ‘Campbelltown Monarch Kangaroos’2, they returned to finals contention in 2003, finishing fourth. Unfortunately, however, the ‘suggestion’ appears to have been misleading: in 2004, the ‘Roos endured their worst season in over a decade, losing all 18 matches contested en route to the inevitable ignominy of a wooden spoon, and while there was marginal improvement in 2005 - 2 wins from 16 matches - the fact that a second consecutive wooden spoon ensued left the club with much to do to restore the old balance of power in Sydney football.
That restoration process began in earnest in 2006, with the Kangas winning 9 of 16 matches to get to within a win plus percentage of finals participation. The side was competitive all year, and a last round win away against a powerful Western Suburbs combination emphasised just how much headway had been made in twelve months.
Further progress was made during a 2007 season that saw finals qualification achieved for the first time since 2003 with the Blues ultimately finishing fourth.
1 The 1987 grand final was arguably one of the most notorious in the history of the league. Campbelltown defeated St George with ease, 25.16 (166) to 12.7 (79), but the statistics which attracted most attention were those presented to the tribunal in the aftermath of the game; all told, no fewer than 27 reports were made, involving fourteen players, with Campbelltown�s Peter Betros� name entering the various umpires� notebooks on no fewer than a dozen occasions.2 The name change was as a result of a short term deal struck with AFL club the Kangaroos. In 2007 Campbelltown reassumed the Blues monicker.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications