History of the Caulfield Bears Football & Netball Club
The Caulfield Football Club was formed in 1993 as a result of the merger of St Kevin’s Ormond FC and St Andrews Gardenvale FC. Both clubs had competed in the Eastern Suburban Churches Football Association and their union coincided with the emergence of the new Southern Football League, which was also founded at the same time as a result of the merger of the ESCFA and South Eastern Suburbs Football League.
The newly-formed club made a big impact in its early stages winning the 2nd XVIII premiership in its first year (1993) and both the 1st XVIII & 2nd XVIII team winning premierships in 1994. The club was promoted to the Premier Division of the competition in 1995 and played finals’ football in its first season but was narrowly beaten in the Preliminary Final by the powerhouse Noble Park club.
Relocation to Princes Park
In 1997, the club decided to relocate from its original base at Koornang Park to Princes Park in South Caulfield (the former home of the defunct Caulfield VFA club).
In 2000, the 1st XVIII team finished in last place of Division 1 (formerly known as Premier Division) and was relegated to Division 2. The club almost completed the horror double of being relegated in successive years and managed to stave off being relegated to Division 3 in 2001 by a solitary win.
For much of the first decade of the new century, the club meandered through the bottom half of Division 2 with the 1st XVIII only playing in one finals campaign in this time – both teams played finals footy in 2007. The 2nd XVIII team played in finals campaigns in 2002, 2003 & 2007.
2011 – Our Annus Horribilis
The club hit some very strong head winds in 2011 with a large number of players leaving the club prior to the commencement of the season and we struggled fielding 2 teams for our weekend matches. During this season, our 1st XVIII football team were regularly beaten by margins in excess of 100 points and the 2nd XVIII was beaten by even bigger margins – in fact, it was a regular occurrence that the 2nd XVIII team played with less than the requisite number of players. A total of 107 players represented our club in this season with many former players being lured out of retirement to assist the club in getting its teams onto the ground.
This period was an extremely tough time for our club and if it were not for the resolve of a small band of people, the club may well have disbanded. But the club was fortunate to have this small band of warriors who would not abandon the club in its time of need (despite many others who jumped ship) and they collectively managed to begin the rebuilding of the club.
Following our annus horribilis of 2011, the club was relegated to Division 3 and the resurrection of our club began. Our 1st XVIII team managed to win 9 matches in season 2012 and finished in 6th place on the ladder which was an OK result as the club was attempting to arrest its demise.
At the end of this season, one of the clubs in Division 2 (Southern Dragons) had applied to be transferred to another competition which resulted in an uneven number of teams in this division. Our governing body, (the SFNL) approached the top 5 teams of the Division 3 competition of 2012 and asked if any of the clubs would be interested in filling the gap in Division 2 created by the departure of the Dragons. Other than the premiers (Moorabbin Kangaroos), no other club accepted the offer to be promoted to Division 2. The SFNL Executive had accepted that Division 2 in 2013 would consist of 9 teams only but was encouraged by one of its board members (Steve Barnes) to approach Caulfield – which it subsequently did.
The proposal was put to our players, members & supporters who voted in favour of accepting the offer to be promoted to Division 2 despite our 1st XVIII team not finishing in the top half of the Division 3 competition in 2012. Many clubs thought this was a foolish move by our club due to our fragility and many expected our teams to be soundly beaten in the following season by the teams in the higher division. But these people did not know of the resolve of the Bears clan and whilst our 1st XVIII team only won a few matches in 2013, it managed to avoid relegation to remain in Division 2.
And to further prove how wrong our detractors were at this time, the 1st XVIII team played in finals’ campaigns in Division 2 for 5 consecutive years (2014-2018) and played in the Grand Final in 2016 – and the 2nd XVIII team also made its way to the Preliminary Final in 2017 which was the first finals’ appearance of our 2nd XVIII team since 2007.
Another pivotal moment in the history of our club arose in 2012 when the opportunity arose for the club to return to its traditional base of Koornang Park (which is the home of the junior body of our club). The players, members and supporters of our club were asked to vote on a proposal to either stay at Princes Park or return to Koornang Park and resoundingly a massive 94% of respondents voted in favour of returning to its traditional home.
The relocation of the senior body of the club in 2012 to its traditional home at Koornang Park has resulted in a reunion with the junior body which bodes well for the future of our club. We have a strong focus of a ‘one club’ environment in which young people are recruited to the sport of Australian football via our Auskick program, migrate into our junior program (which has teams ranging from U8-U17) and onto our senior program and thus providing a single pathway in which young footballers can travel the complete journey of their playing careers.
The emergence of the Caulfield Bears Netball Teams
Our governing body (the SFNL) introduced a netball competition in 2013 and we attempted to recruit players to form a netball team (or teams) to play in the inaugural competition but were unsuccessful. We tried again in 2014 and again had no luck in recruiting sufficient number of players. But when you try & fail, you just gotta try again and 3rd time lucky we managed to cobble together enough players and our first ever netball team wearing our club colours took to the netball court for season 2015.
And the girls made a massive impact on the competition by winning the Division 3 premiership of the Southern Football Netball League. The following season (2016), our netball program had swelled to 4 teams and since 2017 we have fielded 5 or 6 teams each season.
Our Masters netball team has twice won the Division 5 premiership (in 2017 & 2019) and we have had Grand Finalists in 2016 (Division 6), 2018 (Division 1) and 2019 (Division 2).
The introduction of netballers into our club has been a massive injection of vibrancy & diversity and we are mighty proud when they take the court in our club’s colours.
Our formation clubs
St. Kevin’s Ormond FC was formed in 1946 and initially competed in the CYMS competition winning premierships in 1948, 1952 and 1963. In 1967, the club transferred to the YCW competition and continued its successful era winning premierships in 1968 and 1974.
The club was originally church based and was one of the very few strong clubs south of the Yarra River in the 1970’s playing in the YCW competition. Eventually the constant travelling into the northern suburbs of Melbourne saw the club move to the Eastern Suburbs Churches Football Association for the commencement of the 1976 football season. The players were a lot happier as there was less travel and the competition was stronger.
St Kevin’s Ormond Football Club had originally played at McKinnon Oval, moving to the E.E. Gunn Reserve in the 1950’s. In 1965, the club moved to Bailey Reserve in Bentleigh East and finally to Koornang Park in Carnegie in 1980.
The club started in C-grade and the 1st XVIII team was Grand Finalists in 1983 (C-Grade – defeated by Mazenod), 1986 (B-Grade – defeated by Box Hill Pioneers) and 1989 (A-Grade – defeated by Donvale).
With the demise of the original Caulfield FC (VFA club) in the mid 1980’s, many of its players and officials became associated with StKOFC which resulted in StKOFC becoming a strong force however a few years later StKOFC began to wane as a football power. With an ageing player list with no flow of junior players into the club and a lack of profile within the broader community, the Club decided to look to St Andrews Gardenvale as a joint venture partner. StAGFC was a resident club at Princes Park in South Caulfield (albeit on the ‘outer’ grounds) and the administration of StKOFC saw a union with StAGFC as an opportunity to gain access to the main oval at Princes Park.
St Andrews Gardenvale was formed in 1943 and had played in the ESCFA the whole time. Whilst there had been moderate success, the Club had never won a premiership and by 1992 it was heavily in debt and struggling to survive as a club. They had played all their footy at Princes Park and moved to the main oval in the late 1980’s. It was this tenancy which assisted with the merger with StKOFC at the end of 1992.
The merger of St Kevin’s Ormond FC and St Andrews Gardenvale FC blends the rich footballing heritage of 2 clubs extending over a combined total of almost 100 years.