With a dozen senior flags to their credit since 1945, the Cats have been the Colac and District Football League’s equal most successful club, alongside Alvie. They won the first of those premierships in 1945 and followed this up two seasons later with a 13.8 (86) to 9.4 (58) grand final defeat of Coragulac Rovers. A third premiership arrived in 1949. In 1950 the club left the CDFL to compete in the Polwarth Football League, only to return in 1955. A losing grand final against Otway Rovers in 1958 was followed two years later with another premiership as the club embarked on the most successful phase in its history, capped by further flag triumphs in 1963, 1964 and 1968. After that the 1970s were largely disappointing, until the last year of the decade that is when the Cats again went top.
Of the club’s four most recent premierships that of 1995 was perhaps the most memorable. The Cats commenced their finals campaign with a hard fought 3 point win over Lorne in the qualifying final, but were then outgunned and outplayed by Apollo Bay to the tune of 34 points in the second semi. The preliminary final rematch with Lorne was a stern test, but Imperials looked quite solid and assured in winning by 25 points, 15.6 (96) to 11.5 (71). The Bayers, who had lost just once all season, were raging hot favourites to win their second flag in three years, but the Cats, expertly coached by John Henry, produced their best display of the season to snatch a dramatic 2 point win. Final scores were Colac Imperials 13.7 (85) to Apollo Bay 13.5 (83), with ruckman Henry and wingman Tyson Hay, both of whom nabbed 4 goals, vying for best afield honours.
The 2006 season saw the Cats reaching the finals, but after an impressive 22.10 (142) to 13.13 (91) elimination final win over Alvie they succumbed to a dismal 92 point hiding at the hands of Forrest. They slipped down the list in 2007, finishing mid-table, but well out of the running as far as finals qualification was concerned. Then in 2008 they endured a horror season that produced just 2 wins and saw them only narrowly avoid the wooden spoon. Improvement was slow in coming, but in 2011 the Cats gave notice of an imminent renaissance when they only narrowly failed to qualify for the finals. A year later they not only reached the finals, they made it as far as the decisive match of the year, where they played right up to opponents Lorne for long periods only to go down in the end by 29 points. As of the 2016 season the Cats had qualified for five straight finals series suggesting that their days as a bridesmaid might well be numbered. However, in 2017 they managed just three wins from 18 matches to finish ahead only of winless Western Eagles. A year later they fared even worse in terms of games won (two wins and a draw) than in 2017 but finished one place higher on the ladder. There was a modicum of improvement in 2019 as the side won seven matches to clamber up the ladder to seventh.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications