Glenhuntly Oval, North Caulfield
Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) since 1920
Navy blue and white
A Section - 1970 (1 total); B Section - 1925 (1 total); C Section - 1953, 1983 (2 total); D Section - 1949, 1961, 2000 (3 total); E Blue Section - 1998 (1 total)
Caulfield Grammar School was founded in 1881 and football very soon became a vital part of school life. As early as 1889 the school’s magazine reported on a match between teams of present and past pupils, with the latter combination perhaps representing a prototype of today’s proud and distinguished VAFA member club. During the first decade of the twentieth century another team of former pupils, known as Caulfield Collegians, competed for a time in the short-lived Colleges Football Association, winning the competition’s inaugural premiership in 1904. It was not until 1920, however, and the resumption of organised amateur football in Melbourne after world war one, that the present day Caulfield Grammarians Football Club came into being as one of four new members of the eight team Metropolitan Amateur Football Association (known since 1932 as the VAFA).
The 1920s was a boom time all over Australia for most major sports, and in Melbourne this meant especially football. By 1923 the MAFA had expanded to comprise two sections, although unfortunately for Caulfield Grammarians, their poor form over previous seasons saw them consigned to B Section, where they remained until they secured promotion as premiers in 1925.
Right from the outset, the football club boasted strong links with the school that spawned it. In 1920, the school’s headmaster William Buntine was elected as the club’s inaugural president, while the school in its turn made its facilities freely available to the Grammarian footballers.
With the exception of the B Section premiership in 1925, the club’s performances during its first three decades were undistinguished. Indeed, as the VAFA expanded, so the Grammarians tended to find themselves, sooner or later, enduring life in the lowest division. By the early 1930s there were a total of four sections, labelled A-D, and when, in 1949, Caulfield Grammarians experienced the joy of premiership success for the second time it was in D Section, thanks to a 9.10 (64) to 5.5 (35) grand final defeat of Murrumbeena.
The club has won three D Section grand finals over the years, with the others coming in 1961 (versus West Brunswick) and 2000 (by more than 20 goals against Old Essendon Grammarians). Meanwhile the four intervening decades, which featured C Section premierships in 1953 and 1983, as well as promotion from B Grade as losing grand finalists in 1965, 1976 and 1985, were undoubtedly the most noteworthy in the club’s history to date. However, the perfect way in which the Grammarians managed to crown their fiftieth anniversary celebrations in 1970 far outweighed these achievements. Many of the men in navy and white who entered the fray against Coburg in that year’s A Section grand final were playing in their third such play off, having endured the agony of defeat against Old Paradians in 1967 and 1968. Coburg, as reigning premiers as well as victors in the second semi final, were supposed to be too accomplished for John Wilson’s team of honest battlers, but finals football is arguably about battling more than anything else, as the Grammarians proved with consecutive wins over Ormond in the preliminary final by 4 points, and Coburg in ‘the big one’ by 2 points. In truth, the grand final win should have been more convincing, as the final scores of 14.18 (102) to 15.10 (100) appear to confirm, but at the end of the day a premiership is worth exactly the same incalculable amount regardless of how convincingly (or otherwise) it is attained.
In addition to being the ideal way to commemorate the club’s fiftieth birthday, the 1970 grand final was coach John Wilson’s 200th match at the helm. Among the key on-field contributors to the win were eventual 1970 club champion Greg Tootell, the club’s official ‘Team of the Century’ centreman Tony Lester, talented defender John Long, and the Hore brothers. Off the field, the club’s loyal coterie support group, the ‘Fields’, helped ensure that celebrations were both energetic and prolonged.
Caulfield Grammarians remained a force to be reckoned with in A Section for another three seasons, but after contesting the preliminary final in 1973 the side’s form nosedived, and relegation to B Section came the following year. Recovery was fairly swift, however, with third place in 1975 being followed by promotion, albeit as a losing grand finalist, in 1976. There was to be no repeat of the glory days of the club’s previous stint in A Section, however, and measured purely in objective terms, based on on-field achievements and performance, the side’s status over the past thirty years would have to be said to have diminished considerably.
Amateur football is about much more than winning on the field, however, and in terms of human qualities like loyalty, mutual support, shared commitment and endeavour, and the fostering of community spirit Caulfield Grammarians lose nothing in comparison to any of the other seventy or so clubs in the VAFA. The club also has an enviable record in terms of harnessing the full potential of those associated with it, not least its players. Over the years, somewhere in the region of fifty footballers have gone on to enjoy careers at the game’s top level after commencing at Caulfield. Among the most noteworthy of these have been John Schultz (Footscray), Jim Taylor (South Melbourne and Norwood), Ron Evans (Essendon and West Perth), the Kelleway brothers, Andrew and Duncan (Richmond), Stuart Maxfield (Richmond and Sydney), Stephen Newport (Melbourne and St Kilda), and Lance Wilkinson (Hawthorn). The process is not just one way, however, and in 2007 Caulfield Grammarians were coached by a man with a wealth of past experience as both player and coach in three major competitions, Stevie Wright. Under Wright, the side was competitive without ever suggesting it might be good enough for promotion, and its ultimate 7-11 win/loss record saw it consigned to mid-table obscurity.
The following year,however, the side endured a horror time which produced just 3 wins and saw it succumb to the wooden spoon.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications