Benalla All Blacks
It has now been a long time between drinks for the Benalla All Blacks after the club enjoyed consistently high levels of success during the first half century of its existence. Established in 1934, the club entered the Tatong and Thoona Football Association and enjoyed premiership success at the first time of asking, as it did again two seasons later. Successive flags then followed in 1939 and 1940.
After world war two the All Blacks competed in the Central Goulburn Valley Football League’s seconds competition for a single season before going into recess between 1947 and 1952. On resuming, the club affiliated with the Benalla and District Football League in which it enjoyed instantaneous success with an 11.16 (82) to 7.13 (55) defeat of Tatong in the 1953 grand final. A year later the achievement was repeated, this time at the expense of Glenrowan who also provided the All Blacks’ grand final victims in 1956.
The 1960s brought another couple of premierships, as did the 1970s. The success continued in 1981 after the club crossed to the Tungamah Football League but it was at that point that the premiership drought set in. The 1995 season ought perhaps to have seen the drought broken but after topping the ladder heading into the finals the side succumbed to a more desperate Shepparton East in the grand final. Emphasising the club’s all round strength at this time both the reserves and thirds won their respective flags.
Since 2005 the Panthers have competed in the Ovens and King Football League. Initially, performances were undistinguished, but in 2010 they qualified for the finals for the first time, an achievement repeated in both 2011 and 2012. After that, however, there was a rapid decline in fortunes with the nadir coming with a winless wooden spoon in 2015. The 2016 season brought a measure of improvement as the Panthers won 5 out of 18 matches to finish tenth of 12 teams. This was followed by a highly encouraging 2017 campaign which brought finals qualification culminating in a grand final showdown with Glenrowan. Unfortunately, the Tigers proved to have the Panthers' measure and won quite comfortably by 47 points. A year later the Panthers' campaign was brought to an end at the preliminary final stage by Milawa. The 2019 season was disappointing as a tally of eight wins from 18 matches was only good enough for seventh place on the ladder.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications