VAFA A Section - 1920 & 1925 | B Section - 1939 | D Section - 1951 | F Section - 1991 | Division Four - 2005
Formed in 1906 as an all-male football club, like most others of its era, Elsternwick competed for a time in the Federal Football League, without achieving premiership success, before crossing to the Metropolitan Amateur Football Association, precursor of today’s Victorian Amateur Football Association, in 1914. The club’s endorsement of the MAFA’s ideals had, in fact, been publicly affirmed two years earlier, when it had added the word ‘amateur’ to its official name.
Elsternwick Amateur Football Club is the VAFA’s longest standing district member club, and indeed, of all current clubs, only Collegians and Old Scotch Collegians have been involved for longer. It enjoyed a heyday in the decade or so following world war one, when it was twice successful in A Grade. Indeed, in the dozen seasons between 1920 and 1931 the senior side finished first twice, second three times, third three times, and fourth once. Only in 1921, 1923 and 1929 did it finish outside the top four, but not since 1933 has Elsternwick finished as high as fourth place in A Section, a level at which it last competed in 1947.
Elsternwick’s 1920 flag was particularly noteworthy in that the side lost only 1 match all year. However, the Association was in such dire straits financially that it was not until its president, Lawrence Adamson, dipped into his own pockets that sufficient funds were available to purchase the premiership pennant.
Elsternwick’s power during the 1920s was exemplified in other ways. For one thing, it had a substantial supporter base, which quickly earned the ire of certain opposition teams - most notably those with Old Boy affiliations - because of what was perceived as “unseemly behaviour”.
Between 1923 and 1926 Elsternwick had so many players available that, unusually for the time, it was able to field two separate senior teams every Saturday. It was the firsts who captured the attention, however, thanks to the consistent brilliance of players like centreman ‘Tuds’ Heard, and the Morris brothers, Mel, who went on to enjoy a sparkling VFL career with Richmond, and Les, who remained a key player for Elsternwick well into the 1930s.
In 1923, VFL club St. Kilda offered Elsternwick a delegate’s position on its own committee, presumably with the intention of forging some kind of partnership arrangement between the two clubs. Reminded by Adamson of the fate of clubs like Collingwood Districts, Carlton Districts, Fitzroy Juniors and Leopold, all of which had embarked, dewy-eyed, on ‘special relationships’ with VFL clubs only to end up being consumed by them, Elsternwick declined.
The club’s comparative decline as an on-field force since world war two came about as more and more European migrants settled in Melbourne’s inner city suburbs. For many of these migrants, soccer was the preferred sport, and it is hard to imagine this not having an inimical effect on a club like Elsternwick, which recruited most of its players locally. Since the 1960s, Elsternwick’s seniors have spent most of their time in the VAFA’s middle grades, although they also endured a couple of stints in F Section. Even greater ignominy was experienced in July 1980 when it was discovered that the club had fielded a player under an assumed identity. As a result, the club’s secretary was suspended for five years, its coach had his permit revoked, and the club was suspended for the remainder of the season.
Elsternwick’s most recent premiership came in D4 Grade in 2005, thanks to a 15 point grand final win over St Mary’s. In 2006 the side almost made it two promotions in succession, beating West Brunswick convincingly in the first semi final, but finding South Melbourne Districts too tough a nut to crack in the following week’s preliminary final. In 2007, under the coaching of Dennis Grace, Elsternwick experienced something of a decline in fortunes to finish fifth with a 9-8-1 record. It was a similar story a year later as a tally of eight wins consigned the side to sixth position.
After a prolonged stint in Division Three the Wickers earned promotion to Division Two in 2013, albeit only on the coat tails of Kew Bears who downed them in the grand final by 35 points. Two years later their sojourn in Division Two was over as they managed just three wins for the season to succumb to relegation back to Division Three. Even worse was to follow, as in 2016 Elsternwick won just two Division Three games to slump to the wooden spoon and with it relegation, for the 2017 season, to Division Four where they consolidated with a seven-nine record which saw them finish in sixth place on the nine team premiership ladder. A year later they won two more matches but still finished sixth. In 2019, the men’s team performed solidly to qualify for the finals and ultimately come third.
In 2019, Elsternwick opened expressions of interest for its inaugural Women’s senior side. The side officially began training in early 2020, and was gearing up for the 2020 season when it was abruptly cancelled due to Covid-19 lockdowns. A core group of enthusiastic players persisted, however, holding sporadic training sessions whenever restrictions allowed, to finally field its inaugural team in Division 3 in the truncated 2021 season. 2021 also saw Elsternwick field a third men’s side for the first time in our long history.
After finishing minor premiers in the truncated 2021 season – again interrupted thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns – Elsternwick’s senior men’s side was promoted back to Division Three for 2022. Our first full season post-Covid saw the senior men finish second, losing only three home and away games, after an undefeated first half of the season. It wasn’t to be however, Elsternwick bowed out of finals having lost both the semi and preliminary final. In 2022, the Women’s team grew in skill and experience and got its first win on the board.
2023 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the Elsternwick. The club is fielding three men’s teams (Seniors, Reserves and Thirds) and its Women’s seniors team, all of whom are reaching high. Get in contact if you’d like to be part of the next chapter of the Wicks’ story.