Blighty’s origins are typical of many country football clubs. Formed in 1949, the club’s original home ground was a paddock owned by the club president, while the players used a shearing shed adjacent to the paddock as their changing room.
During its first couple of decades, Blighty pursued a peripatetic existence, beginning with a half a dozen season stint in the Edward River Football Association. In 1955,the club transferred to the Murray Football League’s seconds competition, and then returned for three more years in the ERFA in 1959. After spending the 1962 and 1963 seasons back in the MFL seconds, Blighty crossed to the Coreen District Football League, where it came of age in 1965 with its first ever premiership.
Since 1969, the Redeyes have been affiliated with the Picola and District Football League, where they made the perfect start by claiming a flag on debut. After seeing off the challenges of Wunghnu in the first semi final and Katunga in the preliminary final, they scored a fighting, come from behind grand final victory over Yarroweyah. Blighty trailed at every change by 11, 21 and 15 points before rattling on 5.6 to 2.1 in a dominant last quarter performance to clinch a 12.17 (89) to 12.9 (81) success.
After dropping to third in 1970 the Redeyes made it two premierships in three years in 1971 with a 10.7 (67) to 9.8 (62) grand final conquest of minor premiers Yarroweyah. At three quarter time of a match played in extremely windy conditions they led 10.7 (67) to 7.4 (46), but the Hoppers would be coming home with the aid of the breeze. During the final term, Blighty failed to register a single score, and had to defend almost constantly, but managed to hold on to record a famous, tradition-spawning win.
The Redeyes’ next flag, in 1975, was won rather more convincingly thanks to straight sets finals victories over Wunghnu and Barooga, both by an identical 3 goal margin in matches where scoring was at a premium.
After that, it would be a quarter of a century before Blighty again tasted premiership success. In 1998 the side got as far as the preliminary final, having finished well down the ladder the previous year. The 1999 season saw the Redeyes coming as close to winning a premiership, without actually doing so, as it is possible to get after their grand final encounter with Tungamah was drawn. In the following week’s replay, Blighty battled hard to be within 11 points, and still well in contention, at the final change, but in the closing thirty minutes of the match the Bears surged to victory by 6 goals. The Redeyes again reached the grand final the following season, but lost to Katamatite by 43 points.
Blighty’s form since the P&DFL split into two divisions in 2009 has been solid, and indeed they have only failed to contest the finals four times in 11 seasons. This includes a 2018 season which saw the reintroduction of a single division format and in which the Redeyes came fourth while a year later they slumped to 11th place on the 13 team ladder.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications