Ironbank Club History
We are the only football club in the Hills Football League that is 100% community owned. The land was donated by a local farmer in 1950 and the communities of Cherry Gardens and Ironbank worked together to clear the land then level the block and create the Recreation Ground. The first clubs at the Recreation Ground were the cricket club followed by the tennis club and then the Netball club.
The local that donated the land was a very good cricketer hence he was very keen to have a community owned club to play cricket on. There had been tennis courts in Ironbank at the local school so a section of the land was set aside for 2 tennis courts for the community and then these were also used for netball several years later.
It was many years later that the football club was formed and then the next 31 years have seen many changes in the district and the clubs. The one key aspect that has never changed is the community based focus we have and the family friendly atmosphere that abounds.
Neither Cherry Gardens nor Ironbank has an actual “town” yet this has not prevented us from growing and becoming a hub for locals and the sports clubs. Hundreds of kids have grown up with the club, made lifelong friends and helped to create the social fabric that is the Ironbank Cherry Gardens Football Club. We have never been a club that has sought more than we can afford and this has meant that it has taken a long time to get to where we are today with the facilities we now have.
We believe it is important to continue to grow and offer more to our players, officials and supporters. Below is a brief history of our football club showing the various stages in development of our facilities and grassroots club.
The Ironbank Cherry Gardens Football Club was conceived in 1985 after a handful of players that were playing for other clubs and also played together in the local cricket club got together and decided to form a new football club in the Hills Football League. The HFL granted permission in late 1985 to enter a team in the Division 1 – A3 competition.
The club was incorporated and the club colours and team name flowed on from the long standing tradition of the Cricket Club. The jumper design was based on the Woodville tops of that period. The team looked for a home ground and after a lot of discussion with the Cherry Gardens Ironbank Recreation Ground they decided it would be their home.
Their new home ground had only ever been used for Tennis, Netball and Cricket so there were no goal posts, no change rooms, no coach’s boxes and no clubhouse. The founding players approached others and managed to get a full team together and then secured a coach. Barrie Robran agreed to be the clubs Patron.
The players ran the club and as well as playing together they had to get the grounds ready for the first season. There was no large business or township to get behind the new club so they had rely on the local residents, friends and family. One of the locals donated some old 2 inch water pipe and the players painted the posts, dug the holes and put them up during the 1985/1986 summer when the ground was like a rock. They bought an old line marker from the Stirling Council garage sale. At this stage we had no showers and the only building was the small store room/clubhouse for the tennis and cricket clubs near the entrance to the ground.
One of the players wrote the club song and prior to the start of the season the players gathered mid-oval in front of big print on butcher paper to practise the new “Thunder Song”.
Training had to be on Sundays as the ground didn’t have any lights. Two poles were eventually erected at the northern end of the oval with pullies on them. Two old ex-show ground lights were pulled up before every practice and connected to power points using long extension leads. They swung around in the breeze and made it extremely difficult to catch the ball when it was windy.
The players ran the club. There was no-one else. A number of the players had positions on the football committee as well as holding key positions on game day. Two of the players purchased an old caravan which had been converted for selling merchandise from at games. It was painted green & gold and became the canteen and bar. Food was served from one side of the van and drinks/bar from the other side.
Our first Jumper presentation was highlighted with the appearance of Barrie Robran who trained with the team. An old brown football was painted white by Daryl Morgan to make us look professional for night training. Barrie is still a patron of the club today and showed much interest in our development and attended most presentation nights until recently.
After many months of preparation the 1986 season started. Our first game was at Thunder Park (as we called the Cherry Gardens Ironbank oval) against Echunga. The Captain was Ron Axford and the Vice-Captain, Peter Harris. We even had to lend the opposition a player. Both teams and the Umpire changed in the small Netball/Tennis store room.
The day was a roaring success as we won by 20 goals. Ron Axford was best on ground with 6 goals. The Umpire complained to the Hills League that we didn’t have any showers. So something had to be done. The next game was an away game and then there was a long weekend following that. It was decided that showers would be built in this time. After a lot of donations from locals, and hard work we erected our first change rooms with hot showers. The Happy Valley Council decided that this building did not conform to standards but let it stay for the duration of the football season. After the season the building was demolished and today “The Hill” stands at the site and as a memorial to the old change rooms.
We went through our first season undefeated and it wasn’t until the last minor round game that we met our most challenging opponents Mt Lofty, and we had a number of “unavailables”. It was a cold, wet miserable afternoon that Saturday. It was our only loss for the year (9 pts). Ian Evans (the MP) humiliatingly kicked a late long goal from the boundary.
A memorable moment typified the camaraderie engendered that year. Glen Walloschek had never played the game before. He got his first opportunity about Round 8. He stood his ground out on the wing. When he put his hands in the air, the ball stuck, and every man on the team cheered the mark. That is something you would not see very often (the cheering that is).
We went on to meet Mt. Lofty in the Grand Final and made amends for our earlier loss by beating them by 91 points to 35 points. The ball did not pass our half back line until the third quarter. We were proud. We had surprised everyone. A decisive Grand Final win. Our first Premiership in our first year!
One of the highlights of the finals series in 1986 was the debut of the “Thunderettes.” This was made up of wives and girlfriends of the players. Their first appearance was in the second semi-final at Uraidla in wet and very muddy conditions. The girls got out on the oval and enjoyed the mud after the game. They reappeared for the Grand Final and inspired us to a fantastic win.
The Thunderettes had a uniform, short dresses and a dance routine that went to a tune called "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" by Wham. The players ran on to the ground through their guard of honour as they cheered and waved their tassels.
The HFL wasn't happy with everything we did. Alan Axford must be the only person to have served continuously in the same role in any club for the life time of a club and still be there. Anyway, Alan's goal umpiring hat in that first year was unique. The secretary of the HFL informed us that the Board was not entirely impressed with the Akubra with the badges all over it. Alan smartened himself up and as we know has maintained the highest of standards ever since. “Ajax” is still a goal umpire today.
In 1987 we had to build new Change rooms and showers, this time with council approval. To pay for these new change rooms we had to raise money from locals and family by issuing “debentures”. This is essentially how we have managed to improve our facilities throughout the life of the club. We also registered our second senior team. Our “A Grade” played in Division 2 - A2 and our “B Grade” played in Division 1 - A3. Both teams made it to the finals but were not successful in taking out premierships.
Our first Junior team was formed in 1988 consisting of kids of players and Upper Sturt Primary School kids. We have always been a club that has looked to develop kids through from our junior program to the seniors. Some of these people were playing until very recently including Daniel Axford, Daniel McLean and Guy Morris.
In 1990 we had saved up enough money and with additional debentures issued and a lot of working bees we put up the first stage of the new clubrooms. It was basically just a large shed but it was our new home and meant we had a place to get together at our home ground after matches.
Our first function in the new clubrooms was a Toga party!
The 1990’s was the settling in period for the club and unfortunately we did not see a lot of success in the seniors however our junior program was going very well and each year we added a new team so that by 1996 we had teams in the U10’s, U12’s, U15’s and U17’s and in 1994 our senior colts won the Courier Cup.
The Senior’s peaked their form in 1998 when we won our first senior premiership in the A’s and B’s and this heralded a strong period in the clubs history when over a 4 year period we played in 4 grand finals and won 2 premierships and came runner up twice.
This period of success instilled a lot of confidence in the club from players, supporters and locals. With this success there was a determination to continue to grow and improve the infrastructure and in 2002 an extension to the clubrooms was built in order to improve the change rooms and add better facilities such as toilets within the clubrooms and a larger bar and kitchen. Again this was self funded.
Since 2002 we have continued success with our junior program but finals success in the seniors has escaped us. We have continued to improve the club infrastructure with very basic coach’s boxes and a small timekeeper’s box and a simple scoreboard that generally is manned by junior players on game day. Our last seniors premiership was the C Grade team in 2014.
In 2011 it was our 25th celebration and a major milestone for our club.
2016 was our clubs 30th birthday and there were a lot of celebrations and a number of functions including a 30th show where we invited all the founding team players and supporters along to reminisce on those early days.
2017 saw the club relegate ourselves to the Division 2 (Country) of the HFL. Unfortunately while this change was well accepted and seen as a positive for the club with our senior players the same cannot be said for the juniors. This meant that for the 2017 season we fielded 2 seniors’ teams, the A’s and B’s, but we only fielded one junior side being the U13’s. We were also able to field 2 moddies teams and worked with the Coromandel Primary school to run their Auskick program.
2017 was however a ground breaking year for the club with female football and we were able to field 2 teams. The Open Women’s team played as part of the SAWFL competition under the leadership of Bernie Hegarty as coach with his sidekick, Brian Morgan (Pud) assisting. This team had some great successes against all the Hills teams and we are very proud of them. The other team is an U16 side that played as part of the SANFL competition under the leadership of Dave Farmer as coach. Unfortunately we did struggle for numbers all year yet the girls stuck with it all season and enjoyed their footy even though they did not win any games.
Being the first year of female football we must be proud of what we were able to achieve. Below are some photos of the 2 teams.
4 of our girls are proud to be playing football for the club that their dads played for 30 years ago and we took a photo of them and recognised them in the Thunder Roll.