As the only foundation member club still competing in the Ellinbank and District Football League it should come as no surprise to learn that Ellinbank is also far and away the most successful club in the competition's history. However, the fact that the last of the club’s fifteen senior flags was won as long ago as 1995 will, presumably, be a source of some disquiet.
Ellinbank performed solidly to reach the finals in its debut season in the EDFL, and again the following year. The side then broke through to claim its first premiership in 1939 when it downed reigning premier Warragul Seconds in the grand final.
The EDFL went into recess because of the war in 1941 and Ellinbank achieved its second premiership success when the competition resumed five years later. The club’s next two grand final appearances in 1948 and 1951 ended in defeat.
Between 1952 and 1955 Ellinbank won a league record four consecutive grand finals, defeating Noojee, Warragul Industrials twice and Nilma Lillico. The 1960s produced two grand final appearances, both of which were won, and the 1970s two flags from four grand finals. During the 1980s the Eagles were by some measure the league’s most successful side, adding another four premierships and coming second twice.
Ellinbank’s fifteenth and most recent premiership arrived in 1995 in truly dramatic and spectacular fashion. In 1994 the side had finished last, but the return of a number of former players to the club sparked a significant improvement which at one stage during the season produced a dozen wins in succession. Even so, the Eagles might conceivably have missed the finals altogether had they lost just one more match. As it was, they battled their way through to a grand final clash with reigning premier Buln Buln, and after an emotion-charged afternoon emerged victorious by 30 points, 12.10 (82) to 6.16 (52). Much of the emotion derived from the fact that Geoff Pratt, father of Ellinbank coach Russell, had died on the eve of the match.
When Ellinbank and Buln Buln again contested the grand final two years later, the result was reversed. Since then, third place in 1998, 2000 and 2004 is the highest the Eagles have finished, while more recent seasons - with the exception of 2017 and 2018 - have involved an almost perennial flirtation with the wooden spoon. The 2017 season saw Ellinbank contest the elimination final in which they went down by 32 points to Buln Buln, while in 2018 they finished a single place adrift of finals qualification. A year later they got as far as a grand final clash with Longwarry only to go down by 39 points.
John Devaney - Full Points Publications