(note: 1982-1991 reports reproduced from 1991 booklet)
The Cowra Australian Football Club was established in 1982, holding its inaugural Annual General Meeting on 23 February. Present was a cross-section of ex-Victorians, ex-West Australians, but mostly locals keen to get Aussie Rules off the ground in Cowra. The club was to field a senior team in the newly-formed Central West Australian Football League, competing against the other member clubs, Bathurst, Dubbo, Forbes, Young, Parkes and Orange. With the permission of the Cowra Showground Trust and Cowra Jockey Club, the facilities at the Showground were utilised. A number of working bees and many hours of work went into preparing the ground in readiness for the upcoming season.
Club President Graeme Clements was appointed coach, and after weeks of recruitment drives and training sessions, the fledgling Cowra club looked forward to the season opener, a home game against Dubbo, on 17th April 1982. The first team was: Jeff Falconer, Trevor Sanford, Tom Downing, Craig Morton, P Neville, Bruce Williams, Andrew Jolliffe, Chris Saunders, Ian Packer, P Jones, Bob Hilton, Graeme Clements, Peter McCasker, Martie Currie, Peter Johnston, Ron Wheatley, Ross Butcher, Graham Hunt, Craig Sanford, Steve Richardson, Neil McGuigan. Unfortunately, Dubbo spoiled Cowra’s celebrations handing out a hiding to the Blues, 21-24-150 to 7-11-53.
Despite this loss, and a succession of defeats at the hands of Parkes, Young, Orange and Bathurst, the latter two only by a handful of points, it was obvious the side was not far from its first-ever victory. Finally, on 29th May, Cowra notched up a win, travelling to Forbes, and coming away with the club’s first competition points, 11-20-86 to 9-10-64. Poor kicking didn’t help their cause, with an unkind publicity officer at the time suggesting some kicking practice for a certain G.Clements who had a personal tally of 4 goals 9 behinds.
The team was again unlucky a fortnight later, losing to Parkes by just 3 points, but this was as close as they were to come for the rest of the season, which included a 123 point thrashing at the hands of eventual Premiers Young. It was an inauspicious start for the club, unluckily awarded the wooden spoon, finishing equal last with Forbes, but just 0.6% behind them on percentage.
Although not reaching the finals, the Cowra club was still heavily involved, with the League deciding that the first Grand Final be held at Cowra. The game saw hot favourites Young easily account for Orange. Also, during the season the first representative game for the CWAFL team was played, with Cowra well-represented by Bob Hilton, Ken McMurtrie, Graeme Clements and Tom Downing.
The club’s first Presentation Night was held later in the year, and was the first of many memorable functions. Graeme Clements was voted Best & Fairest for the season with Ken McMurtrie not far behind as Runner-Up.
Obviously after such a lean season, with just one taste of victory, the club was keen to improve their performance in its second season.
First Grade: Wins 1 Losses 11 Position 7th
Continuing its development, the League decided to attempt to introduce an Under 17 competition, with all member clubs to field a junior team in season 1983. The senior Cowra was again coached by Graeme Clements, assisted by Ken McMurtrie, with Trevor Sanford appointed coach of the Under 17’s.
Again, plenty of training and muster days, especially to recruit junior players, and trial games against Young, Goulburn and Orange, saw the players eager to perform well. The Under 17’s played their first competition game on 16th April but were no match for Young. They had to wait just one week for their first win, defeating Bathurst by 61 points. Unlike the senior side in its first year, the Cowra juniors didn’t stop at this, stringing together three wins. They finished the season with 8 wins and became the first Cowra side to make the top four, securing third position.
The senior team didn’t fare as well, suffering a 110 point hiding from Dubbo, and a 99 point mauling from the Parkes Panthers in the first half of the season. However, there was a good win over Forbes, and a particularly strong effort against eventual Premiers Orange. A halftime lead to Orange of 27 points was reduced to just 13 points at threequartertime, with the Tigers running out winners by 20 points.
The second half of the season proved a little kinder to the Blues, again easily accounting for Forbes, and the reversing their earlier thrashing by Dubbo for their first victory over the Demons. The team wasn’t able to repeat its efforts against Orange however, recording one of its worst results since formation, a 120 point loss. This was followed by their lowest score on record (2-6-18) against Parkes in the last round of the season...a fairly dismal end to the year.
Although beating Forbes on both occasions during the home and away series (by 75 and 2 points), the Under 17’s lost the club’s first finals appearance by 11 points, 11-9-75 to 9-10-64, to finish their first season fourth. Also of note through the season was the staging of a number of Reserve Grade games. The club’s first game was against Forbes and according to newspaper reports, is best remembered for First Grade ruckman’s Jeff Falconer’s efforts at full-forward for three quarters of the match...no kicks, no marks, and apparently not even a touch of the football.
Graeme Clements was selected vice-captain of the CWAFL representative team that performed well against the Northern Riverina and North Western Leagues through the year. Ross Butcher and Craig Sanford were selected in the Western Division team, with Ross as captain, to compete in the State Championships.
First Grade: Wins 3 Losses 9 Position 6th
With most clubs indicating sufficient player numbers, the League introduced a reserve grade competition. Ken McMurtrie was appointed senior coach, with Graeme Clements to assist, while Trevor Sanford took on the Under 17’s coaching role, hoping to improve on the side’s 1983 fourth.
The senior side had a solid base of experienced players like Clements, McMurtrie, Sanford, Hilton, Falconer, Steve Richardson, Ron Wheatley, Marty Currie, Kevin Siegert, Evan Watson, Brian Harding, Bill Coleman, Andrew McFarlane, and a number of new players to the club including Pat Hayes, Graeme Beynon, Nelson White, Peter Tremble and Geoff Day, the latter three all destined to play over 50 senior games. With a strong side on paper, the club anticipated a successful season.
The seniors trialed against Orange and then a round-robin with Goulburn and Young leading up to the season-opener against Forbes. Cowra had their best-ever start to a season, recording their highest score to date (22-12-144) for a 53 point win. With the bye in the next round, the team actually led the competition and would have maintained a lead except for a narrow 4 point loss to Bathurst a week later.
Despite this early season promise, the wheels well and truly fell off with subsequent losses to Parkes and Young. The Dubbo game produced the first-ever tie with scores locked together at the final siren 14-8-92 apiece. Unfortunately, the rest of the season went downhill from here, the side losing the next six games, including a 95 point deficit at Orange. The return Orange was controversial with the Orange seniors not arriving due to flooding, even though both the Orange Under 17’s and reserve team made the trip, and got home again. The official result was a ‘wash-out’.
The Cowra reserves played their first competition match on 7th April resulting in a loss to Forbes. The side had to wait nearly three months for their first win, a point victory at Bathurst, 8-13-61 to 7-18-60. As the seniors had done in their first year, this was their one and only win for the season. The team wasn’t a particularly stable one, with new faces happy to give the game a try spotted every week. A total of 67 different players found their way onto the ground in reserve grade during the first year.
In Under 17’s, only Gary Robrahn, Craig Watmore, Dave Morton, David Thompson and Warren Moss remained eligible from the 1983 team, and the inexperience showed. The first round loss to Forbes remains as their worst-ever: 36-19-235 to 0-1-1, and in the next game against Bathurst, they registered the lowest possible score (nil) to lose by 193 points. The team wasn’t to record a win for the season, in fact only scoring 19 goals, and being kept goal-less on no less than four occasions.
Just the same, the team, as has become a proud achievement for the club, never forfeited, and produced a number of long-serving players for the club. These include the aforementioned, and Paul Ryan, Brian Picker, Andrew and Robert Wright, Gavin Hoy, Chris Gorham, Dean Hazell, Jon Watson and Matt Devlin, seven of which played in the 1991 senior team.
With a dismal success rate, just two wins and a tie from three grades, all three sides received the wooden-spoon - an unenvied first for the League. Just the same, there was only one way to go in season 1985....things couldn’t get any worse.
First Grade: Wins 1 Draws 2 Losses 9 Position 7th
Big news halfway through the 1984 season was the availability of a new ground and facilities at Mulyan. Financed by the State Government and Cowra Shire Council, the Cowra club looked forward to developing the ground, due to open in time for the 1985 season. It wasn’t terribly difficult to finally leave the Showground with its facilities not really handling six teams each home game, the tent required as canteen, the catheads and those famous goalposts which had to be seen to be believed.
The ground and amenities block were officially opened by Shire President Cr A.J.Oliver with an exhibition game played between top Riverina sides Mangloplah-Cookardinia United and Turvey Park. The club installed a lighting system which has been of immense value to the club.
Still developing, the League accepted the newly-formed Lithgow club’s application to enter the 1985 reserve grade competition. Former Cowra player Chris Siegert was largely responsible for the establishment of the code in Lithgow.
Trevor Sanford decided to have a crack at the senior coaching job while Gavin Cox was to coach the juniors. The senior side had lost the services of Bill ‘shoulders’ Coleman through job transfer and Ken ‘knees’ McMurtrie through injury but were fortunate to pick up Rod and Jeff Michael from the Parkes club, John Walton from Cootamundra, and former players Tom Downing and Ross Butcher.
Trials were played against Young and Goulburn in the annual round-robin, and again against Young a week later. The first competition match at Mulyan Oval saw an historic win to the Under 17’s over Young, their first win over the Saints. Unfortunately, neither the reserves or seniors could emulate this effort, the Blues downed by 35 points in First Grade by the reigning Premiers.
The following week though, Cowra thrashed Bathurst, in the process registering their best score of 22-17-149, their biggest winning margin of 84 points and their first win over Bathurst. It was also the team’s first win in 385 days! A one point loss to Dubbo preceded more history. The team recorded its first wins over Orange and Parkes, and were unbeaten for nearly two months. A last round 9 goal loss to Young wasn’t enough to dislodge them from second spot going into the finals.
In reserve grade, a similar improvement was displayed with the team recording 7 wins and a tie, to finish an unlucky fifth, just half a win outside the top four. Their efforts included first-ever victories over Forbes, Lithgow, Orange and Parkes. The Under 17’s too were unlucky to miss a semifinal berth, equal third but in fifth position on percentage, missing fourth spot by a mere 3.1%.
Cowra made their first finals appearance in a senior grade, obviously determined to perform well. Unfortunately, hot favourites and undefeated minor Premiers Young had other ideas, and had skipped away at threequartertime in the second semifinal to lead by 32 points. However, in probably the most memorable quarter in club history, a seven goals to one onslaught saw the Blues stage a great comeback to eclipse the Saints by 5 points, 14-13-97 to 13-14-92, setting up an historic Grand Final appearance.
Young went from bad to worse, losing the Preliminary Final to fourth-placed Dubbo, resulting in a Dubbo-Cowra Grand Final. The game itself started terribly for the Blues with some fairly imaginative umpiring reducing the Cowra side to just 17 players. Just the same, the team fought on to lead by 12 points going into the final quarter. Unfortunately, Dubbo finished over the top of a fast-tiring Cowra outfit to win by 2 points, 12-9-81 to 11-13-79, a disappointing end to a great season, but possibly creating an incentive to go one better in 1986.
Also through the year, a number of Under 15’s games were played to further bolster the junior ranks. Of note, was a couple of appearances by a 12 year old Gavin Wanganeen, presently a member of the Essendon senior team in the AFL competition.
First Grade: Wins 9 Losses 5 Position Runner-Up
For the 1986 season, the coaching staff remained unchanged with Sanford and Cox in charge, while ‘Johnboy’ Walton coached the reserve grade team. The senior side was fortunate to pick up Jim Inglis from Canberra and Matt Corbett from Sydney. With a number of promising Under 17 players also available, and no players leaving the club, the team looked stronger than ever.
Strong trails against Goulburn, Cootamundra and Orange indicated the team’s strength, and the first competition match saw Cowra established for the ‘86 flag. The team traveled to Forbes and scored their biggest ever total of 30-28-208 and their biggest winning margin of 169 points. What followed was a great run totaling eight victories, including a 115 point hiding to Orange, 116 point win over Young, 140 points ahead of Bathurst and a 78 point win against Parkes.
The side went to Young in the fourth last home and away game undefeated and having beaten the Saints easily in the first match, and anticipated another good win. In miserable conditions, however, and even though the blues kept Young to just one point in the last three quarters, Young caused a big upset toppling Cowra 3-6-24 to 2-4-16.
This was only a minor hiccup in the team’s charge towards the finals and ensuing wins over Parkes, Dubbo and Bathurst, the latter by 122 points, gave the side its first minor Premiership.
In reserves, an equally good performance resulted in them too winning the minor Premiership. Their only loss was at Dubbo, along with a tie against Lithgow. The low point during the season was a dismal 5 goals, 25 behinds against Orange. The Under 17’s lost to Forbes in the opening game of the season, then only lost their two games to Orange for the remainder of the competition, to finish second.
Cowra featured in all three grades in the second semifinal starting poorly losing in Under 17’s to Orange and to Dubbo in reserves. In seniors, a closely contested match saw Cowra edge out Dubbo 13-16-94 to 13-12-90, with a goal to Jeff Michael with just minutes remaining.
A more successful Preliminary Final for the Under 17’s against Parkes and the reserves over Lithgow put both sides into their first Grand Final, and meant all three teams had qualified for the decider, a great effort for the club in only its fifth season.
Favourites Orange easily accounted for the gallant Cowra Under 17’s to win their third successive title (10-14-74 to 7-5-47), while the Dubbo reserves also collected their third straight flag by just outlasting the Blues by 5 points (15-10-100 to 14-11-95). Evan Watson kicked 6 goals for the Cowra side.
In the main game, the much-determined Cowra side led at every change, by 14 points at quartertime, 30 at the long break, 54 at threequartertime, to win by 10 goals: 20-16-136 to 11-10-76. Captain-coach Trevor Sanford kicked 8 goals. The long-awaited first Premiership was finally Cowra’s.
The Premiership side was: Kevin Siegert, Graeme Clements, Tom Downing, Peter Tremble, Matt Corbett, Rod Michael, Jeff Michael, Pat Hayes, Jim Inglis, Jeff Falconer, Geoff Day, Brian Harding, Steve Richardson, John Walton, Ross Butcher, Andrew McFarlane (v-c), Trevor Sanford (c-c), Nelson White, Bob Hilton, Owen Gillespie.
Cowra’s Robert Wright won the club’s first CWAFL Best and Fairest award taking out the Under 17 division, while Kevin Siegert in seniors and Evan Watson in reserves won their respective League goalkicking awards.
Through the season, a number of players reached their 50th First Grade game. Steve Richardson was first to reach the milestone, followed by Marty Currie, Trevor Sanford, Jeff Falconer, Kevin Siegert and Tom Downing. Richardson’s first 38 games were notable in that he hadn’t missed a senior game from the club’s foundation to early 1985.
First Grade: Wins 12 Losses 1 Position Premiers
50 First Grade games: Steve Richardson, Trevor Sanford, Marty Currie, Kevin Siegert, Jeff Falconer, Tom Downing
The 1986 season was a hard act to follow but the 1987 season was to be better still. Trevor Sanford and Gavin Cox remained senior and junior coaches, while Dick Devlin and Graeme Clements took over the role as reserves coach. Much of the ‘86 side was retained except for Andrew McFarIane, Marty Currie and Pat Hayes, but additions included Rod Spolding and Mick Boyd and former player Chris Siegert.
pre-season, the senior team beat Orange by over 200 points, although this was a below-strength side, lost a close encounter with the strong Goulburn outfit and Iost again at Cootamundra, while the Under 17’s played Parkes.
The senior side played Young first-up and finally won a game there after six year of trying, including a Grand Final in 1985. Dubbo again proved a major hurdle, the Demons twice beating Cowra despite not even making the final four. The only other loss for the home and away series was a thrashing at Orange by 10 goals. On the way, the team kicked a record tally of 37-33-255 to Forbes 3-5-23, a record for both the highest score and biggest win that still stands. For all this, the side could any manage second spot behind Premiership favourites Orange.
The reserves finished in fourth spot with 6 wins, 4 losses after a very good start to the season where they led the competition for the first eight rounds. In Under 17’s just 4 wins and a tie left then in fifth position. A highlight for the side finally winning against Orange, Premiers for the previous three seasons. The final score gave Cowra a one point victory. 8-13-61 to 8-12-60.
The seniors took on Orange in their third successive semfinal appearance and the Tigers jumped away to an early lead. This they maintained until well into the final quarter, when again it was Jeff Michael sealing the game with a late goal 12-7-79 to 10-16-76. The result continued an amazing run for the side in all three semifinals they had taken part in: a 5 point win against Young in 1985, a 4 point win over Dubbo in 1986, and now 3 points ahead of Orange in 1987.
Cowra’s reserves did it the hard way having to come from fourth spot. A first semifinal thrashing of Orange by 101 points set up a Preliminary Final clash at Dubbo against the home side. The Demons led well at halftime by 14 points, and looked likely to go on to the Grand Final to attempt to win their fourth straight title. Cowra had plans of their own though, crushing Dubbo in the second half scoring 82 points to 8, ending 19-10-124 to 10-4-64.
The scene was set then for another big day in the club’s short history. In reserve grade, Minor Premiers Bathurst were expected to secure their club’s first Premiership. Cowra started where they left off the week before, jumping to a 7-2-44 to 1-0-6 lead at quartertime. This margin was always going to be a difficult one to reduce, and a better second half by the Eagles still left a 21 point deficit at fulltime, 14-9-93 to 11-6-72. The team winning Cowra’s first reserve grade Premiership was: Richard White, Owen Gillespie, Chris Siegert, Ron Wheatley, Gavin Hoy, Glenn Crawley, Steve Boyd, Chris Baratto, Kevin Siegert (C), Andrew Wright, Darren Nelligan, Dave Bryant, Mick Butler, Chris Gorham, Gavin Cox, Matthew Crawley, Robert Wright, Craig Sanford, Mick Boyce and Barry Bryant.
The senior game. was one of the best ever witnessed in the Central West. Orange and Cowra went goal for goal for most of the game with never more than a handful of points between them. Orange led by 5 points at quartertime, while Cowra led at the final two breaks by 3 and 6 points respectively. Club President Graeme Clements kicked four goals in a desperate last quarter where both side scored 5-2-32, maintaining Cowra’s lead, and giving them back-to-back Premierships 17-13-115 to 17-7-109. Clements and Jeff Falconer each kicked five goals for the game.
The team winning the club’s second senior Premiership was: Jeff Falconer, John Walton, Jeff Michael, Matt Crawley, Matt Corbett, Peter Tremble, Kevin Harrison (trainer), Tom Downing, Rod Michael, Bob Hilton, Graeme Clements, Mick Boyd, Jim Inglis, Geoff Day (v-c), Brian Picker, Nelson White, Trevor Sanford (c), Steve Richardson, Rod Spolding, Brian Harding and Chris Siegert.
Under 17’s player, Glenn Crawley, a member of the victorious reserves, performed an amazing feat – winning the Central West Best and Fairest award in reserve grade. More players reached their 50th game milestone including Graeme Clements, Bob Hilton, Brian Harding and Geoff Day. Also, Craig Watmore played his 50th game for the Under 17’s – another remarkable effort. The fast-developing Under 15 team under coach Evan Watson remained undefeated for the season in competition against Junee, Cootamundra, Young and Temora securing a third Premiership for the season.
First Grade: Wins 12 Losses 3 Position Premiers
50 First Grade games: Brian Harding, Graeme Clements, Bob Hilton, Geoff Day