Garvey Oval, Parade College, Bundoora
Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA) since 1929
Emerald green and purple
Old Paradians Amateur Football Club was formed in 1929 and admitted to C Section of the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, precursor of the VAFA, the same year. The club’s star player in its debut season was Allan La Fontaine who kicked 146 goals from full forward to top the section’s goal kicking list. La Fontaine was lost to the club in 1930 when he crossed to University Blacks. He later enjoyed a highly noteworthy VFL career with Melbourne.\n\nOld Paradians reached the C Grade grand final in 1929, but lost by 15 points to another newly admitted team, East Malvern. Arguably the main thing, however, was that promotion to B Section had been achieved. Despite the departure of La Fontaine, the side coped well with the more demanding requirements of B Grade football, and gained promotion at the second attempt, although somewhat disappointingly this was again by virtue of a losing grand final.\n\nThe club’s initial stint in A Section was inauspicious, as were its efforts for the remainder of the pre-war period. When the VAFA resumed after world war two in 1946 Old Paradians was back in the comparatively unglamorous milieu of C Section.\n\nPromotion was not long in arriving, however. After running third in 1948 the side fought its way through to a grand final clash with North Alphington, and the guarantee of a berth in B Grade, the following year. As on both previous occasions, though, Old Paradians went up as bridesmaid rather than bride, losing a low scoring affair by 42 points, despite having only two fewer scoring shots.\n\nIn its first season back in B Section, the side performed competently to finish fourth, and then in 1951 it broke through to win its first flag in conclusive fashion thanks to a 16.11 (105) to 3.4 (22) grand final trouncing of Alphington. The remainder of the 1950s saw Old Paradians repeatedly mount the up and down escalator between A and B Grades, affording no discernible hint of what was to come in the next decade. Promoted as losing grand finalist in 1953, the side procured its second B Section flag in 1958 when it amassed a then record grand final tally of 21.13 (139) in seeing off the challenge of University Blacks, who managed 15.14 (104). This time around, Old Paradians’ time in A Grade was to be both prolonged and memorable.\n\nThe mastermind of the club’s long overdue ascent to the pinnacle of the amateur game in Victoria was Maurie Considine who had commenced as a player with Old Paradians during the early 1950s before embarking on a five season VFL stint with Hawthorn. Tough, shrewd and dedicated, he was backed by a sound administration energetically led by trucking tycoon, Lou Arthur. Although Considine did not serve as coach throughout the club’s halcyon phase, the team he assembled remained remarkably intact, which in large part helps explain its success.\n\nIn 1962, captained by John Booth, Old Paradians defied expectations by reaching the A Section finals for the first time ever before qualifying for a grand final clash with Melbourne High School Old Boys. Neither side had previously won an A Grade pennant, but Old Paradians performed like finals hardened veterans in cruising to victory by 35 points, 16.14 (110) to 9.9 (63). Players like 1963 Woodrow Medallist Dennis Dalton, Brian Weyman, Peter Booth (brother of John), Spence Williams (known as ‘Spanner’), Laurie Wakeling and Russel Lewis provided the cornerstone of this and five more premiership triumphs during the decade. Among those watching with pride, if no doubt a touch of envy, was club legend Phil McLaughlin, a dual G.T. Moore Medallist and mainstay of Old Paradians teams throughout the 1950s, whose playing career had ended in 1961.\n\nA second successive premiership followed in 1963 thanks to a 10.13 (73) to 8.9 (57) grand final defeat of Ormond, and in 1964 Old Paradians became the sixth team in history to win three A Section flags on end when they held off a fierce grand final challenge from Old Xaverians to edge home by 4 points. The 1965 season brought a temporary hiatus as the side slipped down to the comparative obscurity of fourth place, but in hindsight this can be regarded as nothing but the eye in the storm.\n\nWith former skipper John Booth now in the coaching hot-seat, Old Paradians proceeded to re-write the VAFA record books by winning another three consecutive premierships between 1966 and 1968. The first of these was the hardest earned, as the side had to battle its way through from the first semi final, which it did after overcoming stern challenges from Caulfield Grammarians (by 6 points) and Coburg (by 5 points). The grand final clash with Melbourne High School Old Boys was just as tough, tense and thrilling, but Old Paradians proved the steadier side when it counted, winning by 9 points, 12.9 (81) to 11.6 (72). Subsequent grand final victories over Caulfield Grammarians in 1967 and 1968 were more conclusive, the margins being 3 goals and 75 points, and they emphasised the side’s status as one of the all time great combinations in VAFA history. Stalwarts from the 1962-4 era were reinforced in this team by newcomers like Ross Duke and John Tudor. The 1968 season undoubtedly ranked high among the most noteworthy in the club’s history as all three of its teams - seniors, reserves and under nineteens - won premierships.\n\nFortunes in amateur football often dip and sway like the tide, and this was Old Paradians’ experience over the next few seasons. After reaching the preliminary final in 1969 the side succumbed to relegation to B Section the following year, only to bounce back immediately thanks to a 13.11 (89) to 7.14 (56) grand final win over North Old Boys. The 1972 season brought another grand final appearance, this time in A Grade, but a powerful Ormond team edged home in a thriller by 6 points. Old Paradians have not contested an A Section grand final since, and indeed have not reached the finals at that level since securing consecutive third place finishes in 1987-8.\n\nThe club’s last senior grade premiership was achieved in 1986, in B Section, after two hard fought finals wins over a strong Old Xaverians combination. Coached by Gerard Sholly, and with Steve Exton as captain, this was an Old Paradians side bursting with talent, but also possessed of great resilience and determination. It needed all of these qualities to win a titanic grand final tussle that was hampered by howling winds, and in which the outcome remained in doubt until the twenty-minute mark of the final term. It was then that centre half forward Michael Skerrit found himself presented with what, for a grand final, was an almost unbelievable amount of time and space in which to run onto a loose ball, stagger forward into the raging gale, and fire home from what, had it not been for the breeze, would have been point blank range. It was only the second goal kicked against the wind all match, and it sealed a 10 point victory for Old Paradians, 13.10 (88) to 11.12 (78). Among the many fine players to contribute to the win were ex-Fitzroy under nineteens half forward Greg Powick, skilful centreman Paul Fahey, schoolboy full forward David Way, and centre half back Dale McCann, who had played in Preston’s 1983 VFA premiership team.\n\nThere is a sense in which Old Paradians’ half a dozen A Grade premiership triumphs of the 1960s flare out like beacons in the context of the club’s history as a whole. At the same time, there is a sense in which a club’s true character is revealed not in its moments of triumph, but at times of tribulation and misfortune. In recent years, Old Paradians has plunged from A Section to C Section, but far from wilting in disappointment, or panicking, the club remains both buoyant and optimistic. The senior team’s 2006 skipper Dave Boundy apparently received a number of offers to play with semi-professional clubs, both in Melbourne and interstate, but preferred to stay in a competition, and with a club, that regard loyalty and mateship as being of greater worth than ‘filthy lucre’. Even more to the point perhaps, in a day and age when almost everything (and everyone) tends to be defined primarily in terms of market value rather than moral value, it is hard not to feel reassured when you come across an organisation like Old Paradians which continues to thrive, and to elicit real affection and commitment on the part of scores of individuals, without resorting to financial inducements or rewards of any kind.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications