The full history of the club’s first 50 years is a magnificent full-colour publication written by David Southgate and Allen White, and available through the club’s online store.
The First Old Haileyburians Teams (1925-1960)
The first Old Haileyburians’ team was formed in 1925 and played in the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, the forerunner to the VAFA. Home games were played at what is now known as the Old Scotch Oval in Yarra Park. In 1928 the club merged with Old Trinity until disbanding after the 1934 season.
The seeds of the club’s re-emergence were sown in 1960 when a number of Haileybury Old Boys filled the Old Brighton Grammarians’ reserves team, with a view to forming their own club the following year.
Early Years in the Amateurs (1961-1967)
On 22 April 1961 the OHAFC took the field as a fully-fledged VAFA team for the first time, ironically against their former playing partner Old Trinity, winning their first game in “E” Grade. This match was played at Albert Park Oval 10, the club’s first home, where training was often simply a prelude to the legendary “Cookie Games”.
Immortal captain-coach Peter “Zeke” Davies arrived in 1962 and took the club to an unsuccessful appearance in that year’s Grand Final. The following year the Bloods moved to the Halifax Street Oval and under Zeke’s generalship took out the 1963 “D” Grade Premiership before the big fellow headed off to the OK to teach the Poms how to play rugby Australian style.
The next few years in “C” Grade were generally undistinguished. This was despite a number of memorable events, such as the match against Hampton Rovers, replayed after the 1964 finals series to decide whether or not the Bloods would be relegated. A one-point win was sealed by a goal to Graham “Gus” Currie, playing with a broken arm. A first-quarter burst of 13-1-79 against State Savings Bank was a rare highlight in 1965, while the following year state cricketer Nigel Murch achieved the dubious honour of the club’s longest suspension from the VAFA tribunal – 25 weeks for “adopting a threatening attitude to the umpire” (Don Lord also copped 12 weeks).
Zeke returned in 1967, displaying his new-found and rugby-inspired “bumper bar”, but this was not enough to avert relegation back to “D” Grade. Amongst the Bloods’ greatest playing talents in these first few years were Best & Fairest winners Andy Home, David Young, Alan Ross and record-breaking goal-kicker Peter “Golden Bear” Bowring. Behind the scenes, Tommy Fisher, Barry Berggy, Tony Kellock, Graham Harwood and Murray Ponsford kept the OHAFC ticking over.
Success with Late-60s Legends (1968-1972)
In the late 1960s the club was boosted by arrival of a number of players from the strong school teams of 1965 (APS Premiers) and 1966 such as Andrew “Stink” Langford-Jones (later VAFA President), Peter Mason, Andy Williams, Ross Bannon and Peter Gadsden. Great clubmen such as Rob Pollock, Jim Bonwick and Dicky Metherall also appeared on the scene. David Young captain-coached the reserves to the 1968 Premiership, also taking out that year’s (and the next) competition Best & Fairest.
Under coach Darrell Cranch, the Bloods won the 1969 “D” Grade flag with Peter Bowring kicking a club record 83 goals for the season. This was preceded by a loss in the second semi-final against Assumption, but the match was awarded to Old Haileyburians after it was discovered that future VFL player Peter “Crackers” Keenan had played unregistered.
In 1970 the club made a short-lived move to the Beaumaris Community Centre Reserve, but were back at Halifax Street (and Khyat’s Hotel) the following season. StKilda premiership player Rodger Head took the reins as coach in 1971 in a season where the Bloods kicked 15-1-91 in a quarter against National Bank and Peter Bowring kicked 12 goals for the game.
The Keysborough Years (1973-1982)
A reserves premiership to “Augie’s Boys” and the move to the school ovals at Keysborough marked the 1973 season. Greater success followed in 1974 under Johnny Masters in the form of a senior premiership and promotion to “B” Grade for the first time. The club’s greatest-ever player, Roger Paul, marked his debut season by winning the first of a record 6 Best & Fairests and over the next decade dominated the club’s play, along with All-Australian Amateur ruckman John Houghton.
It was straight back to “C” Grade after an unsuccesful year in 1975, one of the few highlights being Peter Bowring taking over Andy Home’s club games record. The following season, Hawthorn premiership player Mike Porter took over as coach, guiding the Bloods to the Grand Final and back to “B”.
In 1978 the club fielded its first under-nineteen team, which promptly took off the Junior 2 Section premiership and in one game scored 41-31-277 to Old Caulfield’s 0-3-3. A year later, however, the club was relegated back to “C” Grade and leaner years followed, despite a Junior 1 Section premiership under Nick Tonkin in 1980. Perhaps the leanest of all was 1982, the club’s last at Keysborough, where by some miracle it managed to avoid relegation by winning only five games (including the last two). One player who did distinguish himself in this time was dual Best & Fairest winner John Corrigan.
From McKinnon to “A” Grade (1983-1990)
The move to McKinnon in 1983 was engineered by Don McQueen and Andrew Langford-Jones, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say that their efforts saved the club. Despite a number of years in the lower sections of “C” Grade, little by little the club grew stronger on and off the field. On the field the Bloods were largely held together by the efforts of stalwarts such as Neville Schmidt and Roger Gerny.
ALJ coached for the first 3 years at McKinnon, but the arrival of former Richmond utility Wayne Shand as captain-coach was one of the factors which made 1986 a watershed year. From this time onwards many champions of the future came to the club straight from school, including players of the calibre of Garry and Wayne Phillips, Darren Seccull, Dave Connell, Andrew Baxter, Mark Orton, Glenn Tanner, Andrew Walden and Chris McKenzie.
By the time former Geelong and StKilda star Phil Stevens arrived in 1988 the Bloods had a strong list, which transferred into their first senior finals appearance in a decade. Behind the scenes Ken Allison embarked on his second 3-year term as President. Stevens became VAFA General Manager early the next season and Simon Meehan stepped into the breach to guide the team to successive flags in “C” Grade in 1989 (when the reserves also won under Greg Meadows) and “B” in 1990. The 1990 team was perhaps the most powerful ever to have represented the club and annihilated Old Melburnians. Their score of 26.25.181 and winning margin of 136 points were both records for an “A” or “B” Grade Grand Final.
A Decade in “A” (1991-99)
The Old Haileyburians made a brilliant start in “A” Grade with a 53-point thrashing of reigning premiers Ormond in their first game in the section in 1991. The following season they played “A” Grade finals for the first time, bowing out in the first semi. A solid core of great players developed under Simon Meehan, and many regularly played VAFA representative football in this time, including the talented Peter Thiessen.
Lack of depth and an inability to cover injuries led to some inconsistent performances between brilliant high points, where the Bloods more than matched it with the best teams in the competition. Dennis McGrory and Peter Carlson both coached for a year before the team was relegated after the 1994 season.
Under former Fitzroy defender Neville Taylor, the Bloods bounced straight back by winning the “B” Grade premiership in 1995. Nik Morey joined the team and proved a prolific goal-kicker while Mark Seccull, Matthew Armstrong and Wes Byrns were terrific stalwarts. In the background many of the players’ fathers made important contributions to the running of the club, especially under the presidency of Ken Phillips.
Dennis Smith began a record term as President and Simon Meehan returned to coach the team in 1997, as the greats who had joined the club in the late 1980s had one last shot at their Holy Grail of an “A” Grade premiership. They made it as far as a preliminary final that year but fell away the next, playing home games at the school while the McKinnon Oval underwent major re-surfacing works. Many of the great players retired at the end of 1998 or the year before or after. In 1999 the Bloods were relegated again, although their under-nineteens made the Grand Final.
Reaching the Pinnacle (2000-06)
Former StKilda and Fitzroy rover Mick Dwyer took over as coach at the start of 2000 and with Dennis Smith embarked on an extensive recruiting campaign to build a strong list as the Bloods gradually gathered strength. After a slow start that year they made the finals in 2001, when Andrew Bonwick’s reserves won the premiership headed by goal-kicking colossus Chris Efstathiou. The following season the seniors played off in the Grand Final, lowering their colours to Old Melburnians but gaining promotion to “A” Grade.
Ruckman/forward Brett O’Farrell was a crucial force behind the team’s progress along with Jeremy Bourke. The Bloods made a smooth transition into “A” Section in 2003, making the finals on the back of further talent such as the Corrigan brothers Paul and Mark, Kynan Ford, Michael Barker and Laz Siapantas. They also pulled off the recruiting coup of the year with another former StKilda champion in Stewart Loewe making his debut. Sam Langford-Jones and David Mason, the sons of former club legends, also began to make an impact. The McKinnon “Badlands” became a feared venue for visiting clubs.
Dwyer retired after a disappointing 2004 season. Peter Nicholson took over and immediately guided the Bloods to their first minor premiership in “A” Grade. Only a terrible set of injuries in the last round stopped them from progressing further than a preliminary final defeat on the last kick of the day. But in 2006 they reached the Holy Grail of their first “A” Grade flag, inspirational skipper Paul Corrigan lifting the cup after the Bloods defeated competition monolith Old Xaverians for the fourth time that season. The game turned on 38-year-old veteran Mark Seccull’s three goal burst in the second quarter. Ruckman Andrew Jenke became the first Old Haileyburian to win the Woodrow Medal and Carl Steinfort won the Jock Nelson Medal for Best on Ground in the Grand Final.