Boasting colours of maroon and blue, the Turner Football Club joined the CANFL in 1948, and despite earning a predictable wooden spoon in its first year did manage one noteworthy achievement when Harold Maddigan was awarded the Mulrooney Medal. A former Acton player, Maddigan had been a leading force behind the formation of the Turner club, which had been established primarily to satisfy the league’s desire to redress the imbalance between clubs based north and south of the Molonglo river. The arrival of Turner meant that there were now two teams in the north, and three to the south, but the fact that the situation was still not resolved to the league’s satisfaction was demonstrated in 1951 when Acton was relegated to ‘B’ grade for refusing an injunction to move north. (See the entry on Acton for further details.)
Not that this concerned Turner, which by 1951, after a tentative start, had managed to find its feet in league company. It finished third that year, and its new found credibility and confidence were celebrated with the opening of its new, modern clubrooms in June. Turner again finished third in 1952 with Western Australian rover John Gleeson procuring the club’s second Mulrooney Medal.
At this point, Turner might have been expected to take the next logical step, and challenge realistically for the flag, but it was not to be. Indeed, the club not only never again finished as high under the name of Turner, it never again contested the finals. In the twelve seasons from 1953 to 1964 Turner finished last on nine occasions, second last twice, and third last once. In 1965 it acknowledged that a period of retrenchment was required and withdrew from the senior CANFL competition, fielding what was effectively its ‘senior team’ in the CANFL reserves. A moderately successful season which saw this team finish as runner up to Manuka encouraged the club to accept an offer from Queanbeyan to amalgamate for the 1966 season, and enter a joint side in the senior CANFL competition. The merged team played in jumpers which combined Turner’s blue and white hoops (which had replaced the original maroon and blue in 1960) and a large gold ‘Q’ for Queanbeyan.
The Turner-Queanbeyan combination lasted just three seasons, but enabled both clubs to emerge stronger and more financially viable. The CANFL introduced a zoning system in 1969, and this was one of the major reasons that the two clubs, which had completely different catchment areas, decided to go their separate ways.
In 1971 Turner decided to relocate to Belconnen whereupon it adopted the name of the district, and changed its colours to all navy blue. Success continued to prove elusive at first, but towards the end of the 1970s the club made a sudden, if fleeting, emergence from the doldrums, finishing third in 1978, and moving straight into the grand final the following year with a second semi final defeat of Ainslie. Unfortunately, in the pressure cooker atmosphere of the grand final re-match between the two sides, the Tricolours’ cooler, more experienced heads prevailed, and Ainslie ended up recording a comfortable 46 point win, 17.18 (120) to 11.8 (74).
Normality was restored in 1980 as the side plummeted to second last, and thereafter there was very little for Belconnen supporters to celebrate prior to the merger with West Canberra in 1991.
1. The 1952 Mulrooney award was not a medal at all, but a silver water jug.
2. Belconnen and West Canberra actually first underwent a tentative merger in 1987, but this was dissolved after just a year.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications