P.O. Box 457, New Norfolk 7140, Tasmania
Southern Football League (SthFL) since 2000
Black, white and red
1968, 1982, 2005 (3 total) Tasmanian State Premierships -1968 (1 total)
300 by Hedley Thompson
New Norfolk entered the TANFL in 1947 along with South East Football Association rivals Clarence, bringing the total number of clubs in the competition to six. Although they have always found the winning of premierships to be a difficult proposition they have nevertheless made a telling contribution to Tasmanian football, as is evidenced, for example, by their having produced more William Leitch Medallists than any other club, including league heavyweights Glenorchy and North Hobart.
New Norfolk had to wait until 1959 for a first ever grand final appearance but would almost certainly have been prepared to wait even longer had it guaranteed a less ignominious result. The Eagles lost by 47 points, but it was not the margin which was so deflating, rather their consummate inability to trouble the scorers. Final scores were Hobart 9.14 (68) to New Norfolk 2.9 (21) with the Eagles’ total being the lowest in a post war TFL grand final.
Sandy Bay provided the opposition on New Norfolk’s next appearance in a grand final in 1964 but, although the Eagles put in a much improved performance, the ultimate result was the same, with the Seagulls winning by 2 straight kicks. Not even the presence in the New Norfolk side of the great Peter Hudson could enable the Eagles to bridge the gap.
Hudson had departed to the mainland by the time New Norfolk next appeared in a grand final in 1968 when, thankfully, it was a case of ‘third time lucky’. The Eagles won by 29 points, 14.13 (97) to North Hobart’s 9.14 (68), before overcoming Scottsdale by 13 points in the state grand final to claim their first and only state premiership.
After dropping to third in 1969 the Eagles again made the grand final in 1970 when they came up against a Clarence side in irrepressible form and bidding for its first ever TFL flag. The Eagles were underdogs but confident, given that they had beaten the Roos in the final roster match of the season despite being forced to play the entire last quarter with just seventeen men. A grand final record crowd of 24,413 were in attendance, but sadly this failed to inspire the Eagles who trailed throughout en route to a 55 point loss.
New Norfolk’s next grand final appearance in 1972 was equally disappointing, Sandy Bay winning 18.9 (117) to 10.14 (74). The remainder of the 1970s yielded only disappointment and frustration.
The early 1980s proved to be the Eagles’ best period since entering the League. Runners up slots in 1981 and 1983 were sandwiched around the club’s second premiership which came after a hard fought 11 point defeat of Glenorchy.
New Norfolk’s only other TFL grand final appearance came in 1994 when they were favoured by many to upset reigning premiers Clarence. The Roos had other ideas, however, ultimately winning somewhat easier than the final margin of 38 points would suggest.
In 1997 when the TFL decided to apply the scalpel to itself with apparently ruthless abandon there were some who believed the Eagles a trifle fortunate to escape unscathed. Certainly the club has achieved less on field success than either Hobart or Sandy Bay, both of which were unceremoniously shown the door. New Norfolk’s escape was to be short-lived, however. Just two seasons later they joined their erstwhile TFL compatriots in the recently formed Southern Football League, losing both their nickname and official playing colours in the process. Under the name of the New Norfolk ‘Derwent Hawks’ the club reached a grand final in its debut season, but lost by 30 points to Kernandie. With the TFL itself collapsing after the 2000 season the future of clubs like New Norfolk, not to mention that of Tasmanian football as a whole, hung precariously in the balance for a time. However, the news, disclosed in November 2003, that the club would be reverting to its traditional nickname (Eagles) and colours (black, white and red) from 2004 represented a major shot in the arm for everyone associated with New Norfolk, not least the players, who responded by securing the minor premiership and warm favouritism ahead of a grand final clash with Clarence. Unfortunately, however, that was where the fairytale ended, as the ‘Roos proved too accomplished when it counted, and won with some comfort by 33 points.
Fortunately, New Norfolk supporters did not have to wait to long to witness their team taking out a long overdue third flag. In 2005 the Eagles swept all before them, losing only 1 of 18 roster matches to head the ladder going into the finals, and then securing the premiership on the strength of ‘straight sets’ wins over Clarence in both the second semi final and the grand final.
The side continued to produce some fine football in 2006, but ultimately had to be satisfied with third place after losing to Clarence and Glenorchy in the finals. A year later the Eagles bowed out of premiership contention in the first semi final at the hands of North Hobart, but in 2008 they not only failed to qualify for the finals but it was revealed that the club’s financial situation was poor, so poor in fact that when a revamped statewide competition was inaugurated in 2009 there was no place in it for New Norfolk.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications